Stories of Change

(not an actual photo of the two boys)

“They thank God that they found somebody to help their son.”

Story by: Rachel Helwig, Associate Director, Development & Engagement at CWS Lancaster

Each year, tens of thousands of unaccompanied children seek refuge in the United States. Just like refugees and asylum seekers, many unaccompanied children have fled violence and threats to their well-being in their home countries, undertaking dangerous journeys to seek safety in the United States. And just like all young people, they want to go to school, make friends and pursue their dreams within a safe and loving home.

When unaccompanied children first arrive in the U.S., they are quickly held in a border patrol or other detention facility before they are transferred to a shelter. There, they wait days, weeks or sometimes even months to be connected to their sponsors, with most ultimately reuniting with a family or friend already living in the United States.

CWS Lancaster first began our Home Studies Post-Release Services (HSPRS) program in May, supporting unaccompanied children as they are reunited with their sponsor after being released from a shelter. Our case managers work closely with children and their sponsors to create an action plan, setting goals like finishing school, accessing legal services or connecting to other community support systems for mental health, English language programs and cultural integration support.

In just the first five months, CWS Lancaster caseworkers have worked with 48 children and their sponsors across five states. Two of these youth are Abdair and Mikail who live together with a supportive sponsor who chose to welcome both children. Both had been forced to flee their homes in Egypt when they faced religious persecution because of their Christian faith. Although they had only met a few times earlier in life during annual Christian celebrations, they reconnected as they traveled to safety in the United States and grew their friendship during their time in the shelter.

Anoub is an uncle only to Abadir, but when Mikail’s Sponsor was no longer able to support him, Anoub welcomed both children into his home.

“In our culture, and in our religion, it’s not even a choice. Of course, we are going to take care of them,” Anoub said when asked why he was willing to serve as a sponsor to both children. “I just tried to help as I could. I knew that in a few months Mikail would be turning 18, and then he wouldn’t have anyone to take care of him.”

Isabel Alcala, CWS Lancaster HSPRS caseworker, has been providing initial support to Anoub and the children as they settle into their new home. She began working with Anoub and Abadir at first and later helped support Mikail as well when he was placed in the same home. 

The sponsor has always treated both children as family since they walked through their door. “Anoub takes the children along with him on errands and ensures that they get out of the house. At home, he speaks to the opportunities they have and is very positive about their future. The children respect the home, and while they joke and are clearly comfortable in the home, they are very respectful of Anoub and his family,” said Isabel.

As Mikail and Abadir’s sponsor, Anoub has communicated various times with the boy’s parents. He shared, “They are happy. They are thankful for us. They thank God that they found somebody to help their son.”

Note: pseudonyms have been used to protect the identity of the individuals in this story

To learn more about our Children Services program, click here. To learn more about the work of CWS Lancaster, visit their website.