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Child institutionalization in the United States

Children belong in families,
not orphanages
Families and children at the US border

Lumos' work at the US border

In 2018 the news broke of families being separated from each other at the US border. We're working with partner organizations on the ground to #KeepFamiliesTogether.

In 2018, news broke of the forced separation of more than 2,600 migrant children from their parents at the US/Mexico border. The subsequent placement of many of these children in detention centers compounded the trauma experienced in their home countries, on the way to the border and during separation.

Lumos USA works with partner organizations in the US and Guatemala to provide social and medical support to children and their families, deliver trauma services, and safely reunify children with their families.

Why are children and families fleeing to the USA?


Why are families and children fleeing to the US?

This year, thousands of children and families crossed the US border. 

From central American countries. 

Most seek refuge from civil conflict, violence and political unrest.

In countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. 

Thousands of people crossing the US border are held in detention facilities. 

Research shows that putting people in residential institutions such as detention centres, can severely damage their health and development. 

Children in institutions are also exposed to a much higher risk of all forms of abuse than children in family and community-based care. 

Partners Lumos works with


Families and children at the US border

Our work with the American Bar Association

Partnering with the American Bar Association (ABA), Lumos helped integrate trauma-informed social work practices into the ABA’s Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) initiative, which provides legal services to asylum seeking adults and children in detention centers in South Texas. 

Lumos funded the recruitment of a senior social worker and a bilingual clinical social worker to support separated families during detention and upon release. Recently, the senior social worker led the second in a series of training sessions on psychosocial care attended by 60 employees from across ProBAR’s Legal Services, Shelter Services and Release Services teams. 

Working with Immigrant Families Together

Lumos also established a medical fund and a social support fund to help Immigrant Families Together (IFT), a grassroots volunteer organization supporting separated families.

Eighteen children have received medical or mental health services under the medical fund and 43 families have benefitted from the social support fund, with services ranging from legal counsel to transportation to be reunited with family members.

Lumos also funded the recruitment of an experienced social work strategist in Charlotte (North Carolina) and two bilingual Social Work Assistants in Charlotte and New York City. 

The social work strategist has developed guidance resources which families can use to help their children recover from trauma. She also helps co-ordinate IFT's volunteer 'triage' teams which assists around 100 families.

Families and children at the US border
Families at the US border

International Social Service USA (ISS-USA)

Lumos is partnering with the International Social Service USA (ISS-USA) to recruit and train a small team of Guatemalan social workers. Following referrals from US partners, the team actively traces families, conducts pre-arrival assessments of family and community environments and develops individualised service plans for each child to ensure they can safely return home and that their families receive the specific support they require. 

Currently five families are receiving intensive case management under the project and further case referrals continue to be received from local community groups, NGOs, national authorities and lawyers.

What's next?

Working with the New York Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, we published On the Frontlines of the Family Separation Crisis, a report featuring case studies from 4 cities highlighting efforts by local governments, NGOs and grassroots groups to support families affected by separation and detention. 

Drawing upon Lumos’ international experience, the report outlined best practices to reunify and strengthen families. Upcoming publications include a financial analysis of family immigration detention and a booklet for parents and children who have been affected by trauma stemming from separation, detention or adversity in their country of origin. 

Further information about the US border crisis


read more about: A Resolution to Care. (Lumos voices) read more about: Who is protecting children on the move?. (Lumos voices) read more about: Lumos and the American Bar Association partner to help children on the U.S. Border. (News) read more about: Remember the Eight Million. (Lumos voices) read more about: US public outrage speaks volumes about the horrors of child institutionalisation . (Lumos voices)