Silent no more: DL artist shares how she escaped
When Joyce Arndt was just 22 months old, she was placed in foster care for the first time.
Over the course of the next 13 years, she would be uprooted and sent to 14 more foster homes — until at age 16, she decided she'd had enough, and ended up living on the street.
For the next three years, Arndt lived a hand-to-mouth existence, falling into the shadow world of drugs and human trafficking.
"Foster kids who are raised in multiple homes and end up on the streets are prime targets for those looking for young people to traffic," says Arndt, who now makes her home in Detroit Lakes, working as an artist, human rights advocate and inspirational speaker.
Arndt knows whereof she speaks, first-hand. She herself became the target of just such a group of predatory opportunists, as a young girl living on the streets of Minneapolis.
"I just refused to be in foster care when I was 16, and just walked away," Arndt said. "I ended up on the street, where there were people just waiting for kids like me to get them sucked up into the lifestyle of drugs and trafficking.
"It's not something I'm proud of, but I can use it now to help other people, and to advocate for young people that are trying to find themselves and getting led down the wrong track.
"When I do public speaking, I always address the issue of how foster care is related to the trafficking world. I see the vulnerability in these kids, especially the young women. Judging from my own experiences, how confused and vulnerable you are in relationship to love and closeness and even being acknowledged as a human being... there's no one there to remind you on a consistent basis that you have value as a person."
It's fairly easy for someone who preys on these young, vulnerable adults to give them the attention that they have always lacked, and use it to lead them down a dark, sinister path, Arndt said.
A big part of the reason why she's so willing to open up about her experiences now is that while so many stories like hers have a tragic ending, Arndt's did not — thanks to the love of the man who would become her husband.
"He got me off the street and gave me a home," Arndt said.
Carl also made her the stepmother of his two children, who were ages 5 and 6 at the time. After their marriage, they also had a daughter together, named Amy.
Today, Arndt is a retired mental health worker, professional artist, human rights advocate and public speaker. Her story caught the attention of Elizabeth Woller and Jane Wells of Three Generations, an independent filmmaking company based in the Twin Cities.
Arndt, along with her daughter, Amy Hamid, is featured in Three Generations' latest production, "Native Silence," which had its premiere on Nov. 6 in San Francisco, Calif., at the Native American Film Festival. She and her daughter Amy were both in attendance.
"Coming from being a 'cabbage patch kid' to where I am now, has been quite the journey," Arndt said.
The mother of three also has 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and has shared her story with them.
"I want to continue to share my story, where I've come from, and what Three Generations is doing now," Arndt said. "I'm available for speaking engagements."
She's also hoping to bring the film "Native Silence" to Minnesota for a public forum, where she and the film's other subjects can share their experience and help stop the spread of such an insidious crime as human trafficking, which is still, unfortunately, going strong today.
"If I can get people to take a step away from where they're at and progress toward real healing, that's what I want to do," she said. "I'm going to be 63 in February, and I have chronic pancreatitis, which is a very painful condition, but I'm going to be using all my energy to be a grandma and continue the work that my life has given me — getting the word out there that you can heal, you can give back, you can forgive."
Anyone who is interested in learning more about Arndt and her work as a Native American artist, the film "Native Silence," and the work of Three Generations, is invited to visit the website, 3generations.org.
Those who are interested in possibly bringing Arndt to speak at a public forum, service club presentation or other event should contact her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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