How to Buy a Child in 10 Hours

by Chris Borgen

This deeply unsettling experiment starts on a typical Monday morning on Manhattan’s leafy Upper West Side, where commuters stroll by Starbucks and Central Park.

At 7:10 a.m., I’m off to see how long it takes to buy a child slave.

So begins a report by ABC’s Nightline. By 5:00 pm the journalist is in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and he has made a deal to purchase an 11 year-old girl for $150.

The report shows not only the ease with which children are bought and sold but also explains the phenomenon of very poor families giving children away to be servants for slightly better-off families in the hope that they would at least be fed and clothed. But the reality includes beatings and all sorts of abuse.

To appreciate the scope of this crisis, note that UNICEF estimates that there are 300,000 child slaves in Haiti. And this is just a small part of modern-day slavery.

Read the transcript of the Nightline report here.

I’ll close with an excerpt (with some boldface I have added for emphasis), in which, after making the deal for $150, the journalist meets with a second trafficker at a hotel…

This second trafficker is asking a much steeper price for an 11-year-old girl: $10,000.

“It’s something definitive,” explains our translator. “After the sale, he doesn’t mind what happens to the kid.”

“So for $10,000, I can have the child and do anything I want to do is what he’s saying?” I ask.

“Yeah, definitely.”

As further enticement, the trafficker says he can even get me fake papers that would allow me to take this child back to the U.S. with me. Both traffickers say they have experience providing children to Americans. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, officials have no idea how often this sort of transaction transpires. As the slightly menacing slave trafficker describes this girl he’s promising to provide, I hear him use the French word “belle.” French, along with Creole, is one of Haiti’s official languages.

Did he use the word ‘belle’? Like, pretty girl?” I ask the translator.


“So he’s saying this would be a pretty child?”


“Do you think he’s hinting that the child would be a partner of some sort?”

“Yeah, it’s up to you because that kid is yours.”

Once again, I can’t believe I’m having this conversation — sitting in the sunshine so casually transacting such diabolical business. Just to make sure I fully understand the offer on the table, I ask, “If I pay $10,000 I essentially own this child?”

“Yeah, it’s yours. You do whatever you want.”

I’ve heard enough. I conclude the meeting, once again making sure the trafficker doesn’t actually act on my request.

But now comes the craziest part of this wildly disturbing day.

Two waiters sitting nearby call me over. They say they’ve heard my conversations. At first I think they’re going to yell at me or something. I’m bracing for shame. Instead, the waiters offer to sell me a child.

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