FeganScott filed a class action lawsuit against Illinois-based non-profit, First Love International Ministries, and its partner, Loving InDeed, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, claiming the organization stripped Kenyan children from their homes to create “profit orphanages,” designed to attract donations from well-meaning contributors and voluntourists.
The complaint alleges that First Love built a rich but deceptive tapestry of children in need, claiming Kenyan children are in hopeless situations and have been “orphaned through AIDS, disease, violence, or simply been abandoned by their parents.” However, according to the complaint, First Love utilizes a practice condemned as orphanage trafficking, where recruiters target poor Kenyan families, offering to educate their children at a boarding school with the promise of a better life.
First Love and its network of similar corporations, such as Loving InDeed and other children’s homes, keep the children at their homes for years without promoting or ensuring family reunification. They then use the children’s likenesses and presence to increase donations from churches and donors.
According to the complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, once the children reach 18 years of age, they are expelled from the orphanage, often without any attempt to reunite them with their families and without the skills necessary to integrate back into society.
In the United States and across international borders, the institutionalization of children has almost completely stopped. In fact, it is universally recognized that the placement of children in institutions should only occur as a last result, and then, only on a temporary, short-term basis.
Despite this international consensus, according to the complaint, First Love continued to traffic children, using various illicit methods to obfuscate the truth and otherwise demand the children perform for American voluntourists. In addition to these violations, the suit notes that First Love used financial and material poverty as justification for the removal of children from parental or family care, often exploiting them by forcing them to lie to voluntourists and exposing them to short, emotionally traumatic visits, which can further exacerbate the children’s trauma.
Moreover, First Love allegedly utilized deceptive and misleading marketing to target donors, knowing that the monetary support was not helping the children as the donors would have expected.
The suit attempts to hold First Love for RICO Act violations including raising money to enrich themselves or their organization through activities that violate international norms and Kenyan standards, exploiting children, misleading voluntourists and donors, and harassing and threatening class members from reporting or disclosing allegations.
The suit seeks compensation and punitive damages on behalf of all persons who donated money or time to First Love or members of the First Love Solicitation Enterprise. It also seeks to expel and return the defendants’ wrongful profits and revenue.