What’s Happening Locally in Regards to Migrant Children
The following post is an email written by Catholic Charities’ Deputy Director and Justice & Peace Ministry Coordinator Laurie Konwinski in response to several inquires we received regarding the current situation from children being separated from their parents at the border.
Since Catholic Charities has been seeing and receiving inquiries about foster care for the immigrant children who have been taken from their parents at the border, I did some research and wanted to send out this information. First, of course, it amazing and touching and inspiring to know that so many people care about this issue and want to do something for these children. This gives me some hope in the face of this disgusting situation.
Some basics: when the children were taken from their parents, they were deemed “unaccompanied alien children” (UACs). I know that sounds pretty cold, but that’s the official term used. They were placed with the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). ORR contracts with not for profit social services agencies around the country who care for the children, providing shelter, medical care, food etc. You can read more about the program here: www.acf.hhs.gov/orr/unaccompanied-children-frequently-asked-questions
Many of these programs have group home type settings. Some of them supervise foster families who take the children into their own homes. In order to be a foster family you have to be fully licensed by your state.
From what I have read online, the refugee resettlement agencies in our area, including the ones in Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, and of course our own Catholic Charities here in Ithaca, are not currently caring for UACs who’ve recently crossed the border. In fact, I am not finding any information indicating that any of them do this particular service of caring for unaccompanied children.
HOWEVER today I spoke to a staff member at Catholic Family Center, which is the Catholic Charities agency in Monroe County (based in Rochester). That agency provides many services to immigrants, including foster care to refugee children who have no adults caring for them. These refugee children have gone through the vetting process and been granted refugee status by the United Nations and then allowed into the US as refugees. That is NOT the same status as these UACs.
There was some confusion today stemming from a Washington Post article that made it seem like Catholic Family Center was about to receive many of these children. That is NOT the case. As far as the staff member I spoke to knows, none of the current UACs are heading to Rochester.
Having said that, who knows what will happen. Maybe there is some chance that Catholic Family Center would be asked to provide foster care for UACs at some point. It’s hard to say, given the unpredictability of the situation. But it is definitely not happening at this time. And even if that were to happen, I don’t think people in Tompkins County would be eligible to foster these children, given that the office overseeing the program would be up in Rochester. I will try to find out the answer to that question, but I’m guessing we are just too far away.
As mentioned in some e-mails, Cayuga Centers is an organization that provides foster care for kids in several locations, including Auburn. However, from what I can tell the only location where they are providing foster care for unaccompanied immigrant children is New York City. See: http://cayugacenters.org/programs/immigrant-foster-care/
So it doesn’t seem likely that we in Tompkins County will be able to provide foster care for these unaccompanied children any time soon. But if I find out any further information on this I will let you know. I salute the agencies and individual households involved in providing this care. But of course what Catholic Charities and all kinds of other organizations and people are calling for is an end to the separation of families and ultimately to humane immigration reform.
Thank you for standing up for compassion and morality in these difficult times.