California's Forgotten Children

Resilient survivors of child trafficking fight to change the world ensuring no child is forgotten.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
95 mins
Remote video URL


California’s Forgotten Children is a feature documentary that follows a diverse group of resilient survivors who have overcome commercial sexual exploitation as children and are changing the world by ensuring no child is forgotten. This film gives viewers the tools to combat this epidemic and empowers survivors on their path to freedom.

Featured review

California's Forgotten Children is a poignant documentary resource that intimately explores the triumphs of survivors, activists, and law enforcement in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation; it is a compelling narrative that not only informs but deeply resonates, offering a concise yet impactful testament to the strength of the human spirit and the unwavering commitment to justice.
K.J. Genualdo
Video Librarian


California's Forgotten Children is an award-winning feature documentary that follows a diverse group of resilient survivors who have overcome commercial sexual exploitation of children and are changing the world by ensuring no child is forgotten. This film gives viewers the tools to combat this epidemic and empowers survivors on their path to freedom. Featuring stories from leaders in the movement such as Time 100 Most Influential People Withelma "T" Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, attorney Carissa Phelps, academic scholar Dr. Minh Dang, activist Leah Albright-Byrd, therapist Nikolaos Al-Khadra, and educator Rachel Thomas, M. Ed. The film supports the stories of survivors with current statistics and perspectives of sexual exploitation from professionals in social services, law enforcement, advocates, and child welfare.

The film follows powerful and eye-opening stories that illuminate the tragic reality of child sex trafficking within the United States, focusing on the state of California as a significant hotspot for this criminal industry. The documentary vividly depicts the journeys of young girls and boys through the dark and unforgiving world of exploitation. Some fell through the cracks of the foster care system, broken homes, and abusive families force fully kidnaped, while some lived perfect stable lives, but were coerced into following fake promises. Despite the gut-wrenching exposure of their experiences, the survivors' stories also reveal resilience and hope, as they rise to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, and leaders in the fight against child trafficking.

Through the heartfelt narratives of these brave survivors and the invaluable insights shared by experts and advocates, California's Forgotten Children urges viewers to take collective action to prevent human trafficking, support survivors, and stand passionately for the protection of human rights.


The impact of California’s Forgotten Children documentary was tremendous! Students went home and told their families about the film and what they had learned. Parents reached out and wanted to view the film as well and learn more. The impact has been remarkable. The students and teachers now know more about trafficking, but also know who to reach out if they identify a survivor.
Gameelah Mohamed
Victims Specialist
California's Forgotten Children is a great tool to both open a conversation and dialogue on human trafficking as well as to create a more in-depth dialogue on how to strategically combat this horrific crime.
Penny Ronning, Co-Found/Co-Chair of Yellowstone County Human Trafficking Taskforce
Montana International Film Festival
The film helped them understand more about the women they see in our community, that they are real people. It is important for our society to know what is happening. I think all educators should have to watch this. I highly recommend it.
Merced Unified School District
This is by far the best documentary about human trafficking that I have ever viewed. California is a neighboring state, and many of our local survivors have identified that they have been trafficked in locations depicted by the film.
Kate Wyatt, Human Trafficking Project Coordinator at Flagstaff Initiative Against Trafficking
Northern Arizona University
California’s Forgotten Children tells its stories from brave women and men who were once victims and the heroes who risk their lives and reputations to rescue, help and rehabilitate.
Alan Ng
Film Threat
Melody Miller wants to teach children about a subject matter that she can’t show that the children she reaches out to don’t often understand exists in their world.
Sebastian Torrelio
Daily Bruin
War is being waged on an insidious and home-grown epidemic here in the Bay Area and across California. Filmmaker hopes to bring to light Bay Area sex trafficking industry.
Leyla Gulen
ABC 7 News
California’s Forgotten Children retells survivors’ stories of being commercially and sexually exploited, their escape from captures, and their struggle for victims’ rights.
Yohana Gebre
Laney Tower
California’s Forgotten Children holds no punches when it comes to reveal the true face of child abuse and trafficking, and how the system fails to protect those who need it the most. The raw testimonies are a wake up call to each and every American.
Alejandro Turdo
Hoy Sale Cine
California’s Forgotten Children is poignant and needed. The film’s writer and director Melody C. Miller has done a great service to humanity and millions of children across the world by making this film.
Tony Asankomah

Awards and Screenings

Winner Best Topical Documentary at the 53rd Annual Public Media Awards NETA
Nominated for Best Feature Documentary at the Oakland International Film Festival
Nominated for Best Feature Documentary at the Newport Beach International Film Festival
Nominated for Audience Choice Award at the Riverside International Film Festival
Nominated for Best Feature Documentary at the Justice for All Film Festival
Nominated for Best Documentary at the Courage Film Festival
UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland
California Department of Social Services
American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Facebook Global Headquarters

Director Commentary

In high school I watched a documentary about child trafficking. I was enraged and heartbroken by this horrific crime being done to children. A fire ignited within me and I felt a profound urge to take action, to make a difference, and so, I signed up to volunteer at MISSSEY, an organization that motivates, inspires, supports, and serves sexually exploited youth in Oakland. At the time, I thought I would be helping children in other countries, but I discovered that students from my own high school were victims of exploitation. So I was not allowed to meet the youth I was helping.

Regardless of that, I dived into the cause, volunteering tirelessly to support survivors and the organizations fighting this battle. I would sweep floors, collect general necessities, wrapped birthday and holiday presents, and helped fundraise.

Years later, my commitment to the cause continued, and I asked what the movement needed as a documentary. Armed with my skills as a filmmaker, I embarked on a mission to raise awareness and give communities the tools and knowledge needed to combat this epidemic. They connected me with organizations across California and prominent survivors leaders in the movement and I began making the documentary. I was a recent college graduate from UCLA, I didn’t have any money and I didn’t even have a car but I had skills, a talent, and friends so we worked together to make this film on a shoestring budget.

My journey led to the creation of California's Forgotten Children, a powerful documentary that became a movement to bring about change.

California's Forgotten Children has reached thousands of people internationally, sparking conversations and raising awareness about the prevalence of child sex trafficking. The film's reach has been vast, from airing on PBS channels to being screened at prestigious events like the United State of Women Summit and the United State Senate. Even tech giants like Facebook recognized the film's impact, using it to train their international staff to protect at-risk individuals and hiring the survivor leaders from the film to aid them.

We collaborate with schools, government bodies, health services, crisis services, juvenile justice, and community centers, holding screenings and discussions to educate students, policy leaders, and communities. The film serves as a crucial tool to initiate conversations about prevention, protection, and prosecution. We have worked diligently to create a trauma informed guidebook to accompany the film, ensuring it becomes a part of essential Health & Safety courses.

The film has aided victims of abuse, homelessness, and exploitation in classrooms with the support of crisis centers and the police department. Through film screenings it has been used to fundraise for safe-homes and direct services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation, sexual assault, homelessness, and HIV/AIDS. We also have an Ambassador program with the film that creates jobs and opportunities for survivor leaders with the film.

But our work is far from over. We stand committed to donating the net proceeds from our film to the organizations featured in it, as well as others we have encountered along this arduous journey.

And that is where you come in. Your voice, your influence, and your encouragement can make all the difference. By advocating for our cause, sharing our film and hosting a screening of it in your community, bringing it to your schools, you can help magnify our impact.

Features and Languages

Film/Audio Languages

  • English

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • English
  • Spanish

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

Resources for Educators

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