The Lumos Foundation and the American Bar Association have launched a new initiative to provide social work services to children and families seeking asylum in South Texas.
Under the partnership, the ABA and Lumos will hire two social workers to work directly with children and families, both during detention and following release.
The social workers hired for this program will work primarily with unaccompanied children.
Most children and families arriving at the border are seeking refuge from civil conflict, violence and political unrest in countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
The ABA and Lumos will combine their legal and social work expertise to assist children fleeing violence in their home countries, seeking a more secure life in the United States.
“This is a perfect melding of two groups that come to the same place from different perspectives,” ABA President Bob Carlson said. “The ABA and Lumos both work hard to protect the most vulnerable among us. Now, for the first time, we will combine our missions and expertise to achieve together what we could never achieve separately.”
Georgette Mulheir, Lumos CEO, said:
“Children belong in families, not detention centres, orphanages and other institutional settings. Over 80 years of research shows the harm institutionalisation causes children and the severe impact on their health, development and future life chances. Lumos is delighted to partner with the ABA to provide essential social work support to children who have been through the traumas of separation and detention.”
Lumos works to end the institutionalisation of children globally. Lumos has extensive experience in diverse global contexts of facilitating family reunification and supporting children to overcome the trauma caused by separation and institutionalisation.
The ABA is the largest professional membership association in the United States, with more than 400,000 lawyers, judges, law students and legal professionals.
Since 1989, the, ABA has operated the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR), which provides legal services and helps ensure due process rights for about 13,000 unaccompanied immigrant children a year detained in the McAllen-Brownsville area.
In recent months, ProBAR staff have increasingly recognised the need to complement existing legal services with social work services. Accordingly, the ABA and Lumos have embedded two bilingual social workers in ProBAR. The social workers will work together with ProBAR’s nearly 100 legal professionals and will receive ongoing expert guidance from Lumos’ Global Training and Advisory Services team.
By providing unaccompanied children and families with social work, the ABA and Lumos will help mitigate the trauma of separation and detention and will accelerate the quality and sustainability of family reunification.