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New Children’s Center in Corpus Christi to Serve Growing Number of Unaccompanied Minors from Latin America

Upbring Press Release - April 10, 2014 0

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Office opens with request for more foster families in Corpus Christi

AUSTIN, Texas – (April 10, 2014) – At a ribbon cutting ceremony in Corpus Christi today, Lutheran Social Services of the South dedicated its Bokenkamp Transitional Foster Care Office which will organize transitional homes for unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States at the end of arduous journeys— mostly on foot—from Central and South America as well as Mexico. Recruiting more qualified Corpus-area foster families to host these children was a major theme of the event.

“The Bokenkamp Transitional Foster Care Program will improve the lives of vulnerable children as they recover from traumatic journeys and seek the safety and care every child deserves,” said Evan Moilan, Chief Development Officer at LSS. “We are so grateful to the wonderful foster families in Corpus Christi who provide safe havens for these vulnerable kids. We urge qualified families in the Corpus Christi area to open their hearts and their homes to them as well. As more and more children with similar stories come into our care, the need for safe, loving foster homes will be paramount to their successful transition.”

Children and young teens from virtually every nation in Central and South America make the dangerous trek to the United States, escaping deplorable conditions. They often arrive with nothing, barefoot, hungry and thirsty with only the clothes they have on. Some have family in the United States, while others have been sent by their own families in hopes they will escape civil war, the drug trade and poverty. Some travel thousands of miles alone, while most pay large sums of money to human traffickers to cross the border and find jobs. Undocumented and often unable to understand English, they risk falling victim to dangerous sweatshop labor, low wages and even sexual slavery.

After enduring such unthinkable trials, the support and love of a caring family is critical to returning some sense of safety and order in their lives.

“When we opened our home to these children, we didn’t realize how deeply rewarding it would be,” said Martha Rocha, who along with her husband Gabriel Rocha count themselves among the first foster families to open their homes through the Bokenkamp Transitional Foster Care Program. “We are so grateful to be able to give scared, vulnerable kids a safe, loving home. We hope other families in Corpus Christi are moved to become foster parents, too, for the sake of the many kids who need them.”

Over the past two years, growing political unrest and violence has led to an unprecedented rise in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the Texas border each year. In 2013, LSS served more than 1,500 unaccompanied minors through Bokenkamp Children’s Shelter in Corpus Christi and the transitional foster care program in El Paso. Bokenkamp Children’s Shelter began caring for unaccompanied minors in 2006. It has since cared for than 4,500 unaccompanied minors. Funded today by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the support of LSS donors, the facility was originally possible due to the generosity of Pat and Don Bokenkamp on behalf of the Bokenkamp Family. While Don has since passed away, Pat remains an LSS supporter to this day.

For fiscal year 2013, the Department of Homeland Security referred nearly 25,000 unaccompanied minors to the ORR—almost double the previous year. According to a report released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in January, this number could climb as high as 60,000 in 2014.

Currently, there are five LSS foster homes for unaccompanied minors in Corpus Christi. To accommodate the growing numbers of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, Bokenkamp officials estimate they will need up to 15 additional foster homes. Families in the Corpus Christi area interested in becoming qualified foster parents can learn more at www.fosterintexas.org. Donations to support the program are welcomed at www.fosterintexas.org/donate.

The Bokenkamp Transitional Foster Care Program will specifically focus on serving unaccompanied minors under the age of 12, pregnant and parenting teens, and sibling groups. Through this program, the children in LSS’ care will receive safe homes, counseling, spiritual care, education, computer instruction, outdoor recreation, crafts and hobbies and a number of activities that strive to foster a sense of normalcy. Whether these children return to their home countries, reunite with their families, or gain asylum in the United States, LSS is committed to keeping them safe and providing stability in their young lives.

The ribbon cutting, held at the Bokenkamp Transitional Foster Care office located at 4410 Dillon Lane, Suite #5 in Corpus Christi, included comments from LSS staff members leading the program, foster parents currently in the program, and a blessing from Pastor Patsy Koeneke of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.

About Lutheran Social Services of the South

Lutheran Social Services of the South is committed to ending multi-generation child abuse in Texas through innovative children’s services, including foster care, adoption and residential treatment. LSS is a 501(c)(3) faith-based nonprofit organization that currently serves more than 32,000 individuals in need annually, including children, the elderly, the disadvantaged, and those affected by disasters in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Contact: Brenden Scott, Director of Communications, Lutheran Social Services 512-706-7504; [email protected]

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