Amid the political posturing over the immigration crisis at the U.S. southern border, at least one Christian agency is beginning to help find foster parents for unaccompanied migrant children caught up in the current border crisis.
A woman and her husband from Florida, for example, are serving as foster parents for these “unaccompanied alien children,” who are minors that became detained after crossing the U.S. border whether by themselves or with a parent.
“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 shared with the Orlando Sentinel.
The couple, who due to federal guidelines can’t be identified, are part of the global humanitarian nonprofit, Bethany Christian Services, which “supports vulnerable kids and families in the U.S. and around the world.”
Bethany Christian Services has an office in Winter Garden, Central Florida, where they are the only local social-service agency that is actively partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help children find temporary homes until they find a U.S. sponsor.
While it is not commonly heard of, last year alone, the Office of Refugee Resettlement processed over 49,000 unaccompanied children. The Orlando Sentinel pointed out that this could partially be due to the rising level of violence in Central America over the past couple of years.
Yet, despite the fact that there were almost 50,000 children processed last year, only 14 have been placed in homes in Central Florida since this past January. This is partially why Bethany Christian Services wants to quickly add two dozen more foster homes this year, then add on later.
To help give the children a place to stay until they are sponsored.
The process to foster the migrant children is not easy. Each couple has to go through extensive training, background checks, and a licensing process before they can open their home to children. Not only is this part of the process-extensive, but many of the children come with traumas that need to be treated in a specific way.
“We’re doing a lot of trauma-informed care,” Bethany’s executive director for Florida, Laurie Stern explained. “There’s going to be some anger and confusion. It’s wrapping your arms around that child and letting them know they’re safe.”
The husband and wife that took in migrant children explained that the process has not been what they were expecting, but that it is rewarding.
“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,” the wife shared. “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,” she added. “And we’re the only ones here, so it comes out at us.”
Even though the foster care process can be tedious, and oftentimes difficult, the wife shared that she has already seen positive changes in her relationship with the foster children.
She recalled a visit to a local park, where one of the boys tried using the swing for the first time.
“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.”
If you are interested in learning more about Bethany Christian Services or becoming a foster parent through them you can find more info here.