Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What you can do to help the US' 52,000 child migrants

Clothing being sorted at a detention facility in Brownsville, TX. Getty Images

As I've been writing about the crisis of children and families fleeing Central America for the US over the last several weeks, I've received a number of emails from people asking how they can help. With help from other reporters, advocates, and experts, I've compiled a list with some options — from donating money or supplies, to volunteering, to fostering a child.

Most of these organizations are based in South Texas — the place where most children and families are entering the country, and where many of them are being held temporarily in short-term facilities. But as children and families get moved through the system, they're being dispersed throughout the country: in long-term government-provided housing for unaccompanied children, in detention centers for families, and in homes with relatives. So no matter where you live, if you're interested in lending a hand, you can probably find an opportunity.

This list should not be construed as an endorsement of any of these organizations or their missions; it is purely intended as a resource. This list will be updated with better information and options as the situation develops.

If you have questions, or want to help, please email the organizations listed.

Donating your money

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. Some Catholic churches in South Texas have been operating as temporary shelters for migrant children and families, and the regional Catholic Charities office is providing on-the-ground support. You can donate online here.

Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief. Southern Baptist groups have also been providing emergency support to children and families, including coordinating supply drives for children in detention. You can donate online to their general disaster relief fund here. To donate specifically to their efforts in South Texas, write a check with the designation "Border Crisis" and mail it to the address listed here.

Kids In Need of Defense. KIND is a service and advocacy organization dedicated to protecting unaccompanied immigrant children. They're working to get children representation and support in legal proceedings. You can donate here.

RAICES. RAICES is a Texas-based organization providing legal support to immigrants. They have been providing legal services to unaccompanied immigrant children for a long time, and are handling much of the front-line work now. You can donate here.

International Education Services of Texas. IES is a long-established organization that operates emergency shelters and long-term care facilities for immigrant children, and helps place children with foster families. Learn more about IES here.

Donating supplies

The best way to help charitable organizations — especially in a crisis — is to send cash. That allows them to put the resources to where they are most needed, and it saves on the transportation and logistical challenges that come with in-kind donations. So for most people, cash is the best way to help. (In addition to the organizations listed above, you can also send cash to the organizations in this section.)

But if you happen to live close to the border, then in-kind donations can be helpful too. Here's where to send them.

Annunciation House in El Paso. Annunciation House has had to accommodate three different waves of immigrant families over the past six weeks — sometimes with only a few days' notice. If you're in the El Paso area, they're accepting donations of supplies. They're also accepting monetary donations, so you can help them even if you're not in El Paso. Please see here for how to set up a donation.

South Texas Refugee Response. This is a coalition of religious organizations providing support. They've been posting lists of the items they need most each day. Again, they're only accepting supply donations from people who can drop supplies off at particular South Texas locations. If you're interested, please see the right sidebar here for daily updates.

Department of Homeland Security. There are currently a lot of mixed messages about whether or not it's possible to donate things for kids and families in detention — like blankets, clothing and toys — directly to the Department of Homeland Security. I'll update this space as soon as I hear back for sure one way or the other.

Find a local organization. As Michelle Brané of the Women's Refugee Commission said when I asked about this, "Kids who've arrived so far are going to start showing up in communities" as they are placed with relatives or other long-term care situations. "Those communities will need help. If you have a high percentage of immigrants in your community, or a community nearby, go to schools and churches and ask them what they need."

Donating your time

ProBAR. If you're a legal services provider and you live in South Texas, or you can afford to spend time there, there is urgent need for you right now. The American Bar Association's pro bono project in South Texas, ProBAR, is doing a lot of work with immigrant children and families, and has both long-term and short-term volunteer opportunities available for attorneys, law students, legal assistants and interpreters. See here.

Annunciation House in El Paso. Annunciation House doesn't need any volunteers at this time, but is keeping their website updated should they need any in the future. If you're in the El Paso area, check them out here.

Find a local organization. Again, as immigrant children and families are dispersed throughout the country into longer-term housing or detention, many communities will have volunteer needs.

Fostering a child

Fostering a child is a substantial commitment, and it's not one that should be taken lightly. Would-be foster parents have to be certified before they're able to take children in, so the process can be lengthy and intensive.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service works with foster agencies around the country. Their network can help would-be foster parents get connected and work through the certification and training process. See here for more about their program, and a form where you can submit information if you'd like to get connected with a local foster organization.

If you're interested in learning more about the roots of the child migrant crisis, check out this video for a 2-minute introduction — or check out Vox's other coverage of the story.

Special thanks to Ian Gordon for his contributions to this list.

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