INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. --The number of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border is on the rise. Last month, that number almost reached 12,000 according to information from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Did you know, some of those minors are landing right here in the Hoosier state?
By definition from the Department of Health and Human Services, an unaccompanied alien child (UAC):
- Has no lawful immigration status in the United States
- Is under 18 years of age
- Has no parent or legal guardian in the United States or no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody
Clare Corado, an Attorney for Indiana Immigration Law Group says this issue gives her chills. She says it’s important to understand that this national issue hits home more often than you think as children at very young ages are fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.
“We can provide these children with the love of a family,” said Tamara Timm with Bethany Christian Services, a non-profit in Central Indiana.
Families in Indiana are playing a vital part in this global issue. Timm says it’s an emotional but rewarding experience. A new program called Transitional Foster Care works with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s an alternative to large detention facilities. Unaccompanied children at the border are transported here and placed with Hoosiers who can help, while Bethany Christian Services works to find their family.
The services include education, medical care, legal screenings and more. Since March, 10 minors have come to Indiana. Five have been reunified with family or close family friends, which is the ultimate goal. Although this is a new program for Indiana, Bethany Christian Services has provided support to more than 13,500 unaccompanied minors since 1975.
“They are tired, they are confused,” said Timm, “But they’re still so hopeful.”
Timm says on Monday night a child was brought here to the airport to be apart of the Transitional Foster Care program. While there has been great progress in the first few months of the program, Bethany Christian Services has 18 spots they can fill. They just don’t have enough foster families to do so.
“It’s much more common than you would think,” said Corado with Indiana Immigration Law Group.
“I think it’s almost incomprehensible,” said Corado, “If I didn’t see these kids here in my job I would find it hard to believe that many children would have such a need they were pushed out of their country and came to the U.S. seeking help.”
Timm added, “Regardless of where they come from, regardless of where they are going, regardless of how long they’re going to be in this situation.”
The program is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
According to Bethany Christian Services, foster parents can be married or unmarried, work full-time, be new to parenting, or already have children. Bethany provides extensive training and resources to care for children who have experienced trauma, as is the case with many unaccompanied children. Click here to learn more about their services.
If you would like to keep up with how many unaccompanied minors are crossing the southern border click here to visit information from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.