Thursday, August 7, 2014

LAYC Seeks Funding for Services to Unaccompanied Minors, a Long-term Foster Care Program

Today, a guest blog post from Latin American Youth Center.   There are numerous media reports locally and nationally but little about what is actually happening on the ground in DC.   This post starts to address this.

Brandi Stanton, Grants Writer/Development Manager, and Araceli Rosenberger, Communications Manager, authored the post.

The Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) in Northwest Washington, DC has provided residential housing with comprehensive support services to hundreds of vulnerable young people for over 20 years. LAYC is a nationally recognized youth development agency whose mission is to empower a diverse population of youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood through multi-cultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address youths' social, academic, and career needs.

As an organization that was founded in the late'60s to meet the needs of young immigrants from Central America, LAYC has expertise working with immigrant youth and families, offering services in a professional and culturally competent atmosphere. The recent surge in unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border motivated LAYC to respond to a funding opportunity announced by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to offer residential and support services to 20 unaccompanied immigrant children while they await immigration proceedings.

Over 50,000 young people have crossed over the border since October 2013, and in compliance with the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, these children must be granted court hearings to determine if they are eligible for asylum or some other form of immigration relief. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees' report, "Children on the Run," 58% of all children arriving from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico "raise potential international protection needs" due to experiences including extortion, threats of violence, witnessing murder, abuse, sexual violence, trafficking, and other forms of exploitation. Although the number of young girls coming into the country is increasing, the majority of these children are boys between the ages of 12 and 17.

LAYC's proposed Services for Unaccompanied Minors (SUM) program is a long-term foster care program for unaccompanied immigrant children to meet the residential, case management, and family reunification needs of 20 children/youth while they await decisions about their immigration status. The SUM program will provide safe, structured foster care housing and wrap-around acculturation and adaptation services during their time in foster care, including legal orientations, education, individual and group counseling, recreation, and access to legal, medical, dental, and mental health appointments. Bilingual program staff will also deliver family reunification and release services, identifying and vetting family members or friends in the U.S. who may be able to take custody of the children. The project period is 36 months.

LAYC will work with partner community organizations and agencies to address the complex needs of these youth including Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care, La ClĂ­nica del Pueblo, DC Government, DC Public Schools and DC Public Charter Schools, Ayuda, Hispanic Bar Association, CARECEN, Consortium for Child Welfare, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, St. Ann's Center for Children, Youth, and Families, individual immigration lawyers, and foster families. Whether SUM is funded or not, LAYC stands ready with our community partners to help these young people and their families.

LAYC has increased its efforts to recruit potential foster families for SUM and its existing Foster Care and Residential Placement programs in anticipation of the grant announcement, which is expected in October 2014. Foster parents may be single or married, English or Spanish speaking, of any gender or sexual identity, renters or homeowners, U.S. citizens or undocumented.

Individuals and families interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent with LAYC may visit LAYC’s Website, or contact Doreen Allen, Family Resource Specialist, at or (202) 643-2753. Media inquiries should be directed to Araceli Rosenberger, Communications Manager, at or (202) 319-2253.

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