Amid general outcry over migrant children detained at the U.S. border, one couple in Florida has decided to do something about the situation by becoming transitional foster parents to kids who are unaccompanied immigrants.
“Just seeing the lines of people walking toward the border, and the desperation in their faces, especially the children … my husband and I felt we had to do something,” the wife told the Orlando Sentinel.
Sheltering Migrant Children
The husband and wife, both of whom work and have two biological children under the age of six, are fostering through Bethany Christian Services, a nonprofit that “supports vulnerable kids and families in the U.S. and around the world.” Part of Bethany’s mission is providing transitional foster care to unaccompanied children in the States while working to locate sponsors for those children. The organization works with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. In the video below, you can see the process for what happens to unaccompanied migrant children after they arrive in the U.S.
The couple fostering through Bethany has so far sheltered four children ranging in age from six years old to the teen years. The wife says the experience has been rewarding, but different from what she initially expected. She told the Sentinel, “My husband and I had both imagined that the kids would come to us crying … and we would just be able to cuddle and comfort them. But to be honest, they have just come out of a very traumatic experience. They don’t know us, they don’t know what to expect, and at least with the young kids we’ve had, they don’t know how to process these emotions and what just happened to them at the detention centers. And we’re the only ones here, so it comes out at us.”
There have been multiple news stories over the past few weeks alleging that immigrant children detained at the border are living in terrible conditions. According to reports, facilities are overcrowded and children do not have access to basic hygiene or adequate food.
On June 24th, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar described the governments limitations when it comes to dealing with the situation, saying, “We are full. We do not have capacity for more of these unaccompanied children who come across the border, and what happens is they get backed up there at the Department of Homeland Security’s facilities because I can’t put someone in a bed that does not exist in our shelters.”
Meanwhile the House and Senate have each passed different versions of a border funding bill to provide emergency aid for the situation. The two bodies are currently working to reconcile the bills before sending them to President Trump, who has threatened to veto the House version because of restrictions it contains on border enforcement.
According to the Sentinel, violence in Central America is responsible for a significant spike in the number of migrant children seeking shelter in the U.S. Such children are vulnerable to human trafficking, and many of those Bethany places in foster care have experienced trauma, as the Orlando couple discovered.
However, the wife also says she has also been able to see changes in the kids during the time they have stayed with her family. She took one of the boys to a park, where he got to try a swing for the first time. She said, “This was a child who had been in a detention center only a few weeks ago, and it was just so amazing to see him laughing, without a care in the world. It was the best feeling ever to know that we had been a part of the journey.”