How to Volunteer to Help Immigrant Children Separated from Family

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Social workers eager to help immigrants who have been separated from their children have a wealth of resources at their disposal.

The truth is one of them.

National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Board Member Guadalupe G. Lara, LMSW, an expert on social work and immigration, is encouraging social workers to advocate for these children and “to speak to some of the facts because there’s a lot of misinformation on the other side.”

President Donald Trump and his administration say U.S. laws and court rulings have forced them to separate families caught trying to enter the U.S. southern border, but those claims are false.

The separations are happening because in April the Trump administration started prosecuting all adults who crossed the border—even those seeking asylum; even those with children.

As a result, thousands of immigrant children have been separated from their parents.

Trump can simply direct his administration to stop imposing these separations.

“A “zero tolerance” immigration policy that would prosecute families who attempt to cross the border and forcibly separate children from parents is malicious and unconscionable and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) will press lawmakers to rescind this egregious action.” – NASW Statement

Serve as Translators, Conduct Health Assessments, Contact Congress

Bilingual social workers living near where immigrants are being kept can volunteer to help detained immigrants by serving as translators and providing mental health assessments for those organizations that are providing families pro bono or reduced cost legal assistance.

“If you’re a licensed social worker or above you can do these assessments as part of the (immigrants’) legal file,” says NASW member Mark Lusk, EdD, MSW, LMSW, and member of the Human Rights Committee of NASW Texas Chapter.

Social workers should also contact their representatives in Congress to voice their disapproval and voice support for several bills being pushed to fight the zero-tolerance policy, the most widely-circulated being the Keep Families Together Act, introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

“Speak to elected officials, to our friends, peers and to the public and to the press. Just put out the word that a line has been passed and as people of conscience we have to say that we can’t today separate families for a cause that does not advance America’s national interest,” Lusk said. “These immigrants do not constitute a threat to the U.S.”

“The Trump administration’s practice is in direct violation of our Code of Ethics. As social workers, we are guided by a set of ethical principles that are based on the profession’s core values including service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, and the importance of human relationships.” – NASW New York State Chapter Statement

Other ways to help

First, download the 5 Calls App for a phone call script on the following issues:

Lara suggests social workers send their comments to the Department of Homeland Security, too, to register their complaints.

Then visit the following organizations:

  • Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) works to ensure that no child appears in immigration court alone without representation.
  • Women’s Refugee Commission offers Resources for Families Facing Deportation and Separation in English and Spanish.
  • Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights advocates for the safety and well-being of unaccompanied kids arriving in the United States. They recently announced a project specifically dedicated to helping children separated from their parents at the border.
  • Families Belong Together is a coalition opposing the separation of families at the border and is organizing a series of rallies and events across the country.
  • U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) is national, non-profit, nonpartisan refugee resettlement and advocacy organization that has served and defended the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons. Based in Washington, D.C., it has six field offices including one in Albany, NY, and partners with local community-based agencies across the nation to help thousands of refugees build new lives in the U.S. each year.
  • Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services is the biggest source of free and low-cost immigration services in West Texas. It says it’s the only organization in El Paso serving unaccompanied children.
  • Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is a Texas-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing immigrant families and refugees with affordable legal assistance. They also offer an online toolkit to help inform people about family separation and how to raise awareness.
  • Lutheran Social Services and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which is raising money to provide immigrant children counseling, therapy, shelter, beds and medical services to help them cope with the trauma of being separated from their families.
  • Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley is offering shelter to those immigrants who have been released from U.S. Border Patrol custody.
  • Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project works to prevent the deportation of asylum-seeking families fleeing violence. The group accepts donations and asks people to sign up for volunteer opportunities
  • The Vera Institute of Justice recently launched the Immigration Technical Assistance Center (ITAC), as a resource for all attorneys representing immigrants.

Other NASW Resources:

NASW Statement: Plan to separate undocumented immigrant children from their parents is malicious and unconscionable

NASW D.C. Metro Chapter

Social Workers Can Help Children Being Separated from Parents at the U.S. Border (NASW North Carolina Chapter)

NASW New York State Chapter Statement

NASW Social Justice Brief: Unaccompanied Migrant Children: Overviews and Recommendations

NASW Media Toolkit on Child Immigrant Crisis

 

 

 

 

85 comments

  1. This all well and good, but what do people like me do to help. The only credentials I have are that I love people and I love children. I am retired with lots of time on my hands. And I am sure there are a lot more like me out there.

    • Thanks for your comment Ms. Pohl. Please contact these organizations and offer your services. I’m sure they would be happy to hear from you.

  2. Hello,
    I’m an LCSW in California and would like to help. I am bilingual and work with children and families in schools.

  3. I am a licensed as an LCSW in CA, am awaiting my LCSW number & license in TX. I am NOT bilingual but have extensive multicultural experience. I have conducted clinical interviews through interpretors. I have experience with incarcerated individuals and individuals who have experienced trauma and attachment issues. I live in Austin, Texas. I can provide some clinical services part time while I look for part time employment here. Please let me know how I can help.

  4. I am a retired bilingual LCSW in the Chicago area. I have many years experience in schools and mental health with children and adult immigrants. I would like to help, part time.

  5. Sharon L Williams

    I am an LCSW in the NOVA/DC area and am willing to help. I have been volunteering with a faith-based organization named NOVA Cluster Congregation Action Network which responds to ICE raids and offers assistance to families if persons have been apprehended. I would like to do more that involves my social work expertise. I have 22 years experience working with children and adolescents, many with histories of trauma. While I am not fully fluent, I speak Spanish that is good enough for most communication.

  6. Katie Schatzlein

    There are so many of us, wanting to help. The way I see it, we need everyone, especially people in nursing, psychology, social work, childcare & child development, people who are bilingual. If I left anyone out, my apologies. I say we start here to prepare to form a group, get to know each other, come up with care plans in our specialties. For instance, nurses should determine how to procure portable showers, sinks, etc. Obtaining clothing donations is very easy and we can divide them by age and gender. Obtain donations for diapers, formula, bottled water, etc. The list is endless, but we can start with the first step.

  7. Anna Shea-Michiels

    I am a LSWAIC, associate licensure in WA state. I have extensive experience with infant mental health and MH with all ages. Also have intensive training in trauma with minority, immigrant and marginal populations. I have worked in child welfare and DCFS as a caseworker and have experience in family court.

    I am currently taking time off from agency work and have ample time to assist with many things. Happy to travel as well as I have access to easy flight transportation. I know some Spanish, but am not fluent.

    Please let me know how I can help. Contact by phone or text is easiest.

    • Anna Shea-Michiels

      Also, I have a masters degree in early childhood development, experiences in school settings, home settings, and domestic violence shelters.

  8. I am a bi-lingual Licensed Social Worker in Los Angeles, willing to help in any way!
    hkoskey@Hotmail.com

  9. I work in the area of Florida, I am open to help and serve in seeing children if needed.

    • I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor willing to collaborate in my area.

      • I am looking for a non-political way to help the many children affected by the immigration crisis these children are the major victims of this crisis. My idea is to make kits with toothbrushes, toothpastes, small games, like cards, yo-yos and other fun games and other supplies to help these these children in this troubling time for the children in these “temporary stations”. The children are the victims of this situation.
        I work with a Boy Scout Council in Southern Indiana, BuffaloTraceCouncil, and have a passion to help children in need.
        If you are interested in helping the children from this immigration crisis, please contact me as soon as possible. I can easily get a local and National group together to help these children. My goal is to have the Scouting BSA Scouts (children) helping children.
        Please contact me as soon as possible, these children need help,
        Fred Hassman
        Fhassman@gmail.com
        812-202-0838
        P.S. The children of this crisis need help, but we need to remove the political influence and think of the young victims of this issue.

    • Hi Ivette,

      what area of Florida are you in? I am a social worker working with the NASW on immigration related issues.

      • Robbie- I’m also in Florida. I’m an LCSW, qualified supervisor and PhD. I help to run a pop-up clinic that serves migrant farmworkers and anyone uninsured. We get a lot of immigrants. I’ve also been involved in focus group research in central FL with Venezuelan immigrants. I’d love to be more connected to NASW on this. -Tracy W

  10. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in CA, I can complete assessments. Are there any locations in Southern California?

  11. Candy Anderson Gonzales

    I am a retired Pay RN, bilingual. Contact me if you are seeking a volunteer in the SaAntonio area.

    • My daughter and I are interested in volunteering at the border. What can we do? Please send us areas we can assist. Thank you.

      • It’s (slightly) possible I may have 2 months to give hands-on help. I’ve been a preschool teacher, an ESP, have a recent CORE – I want to be of help to some of those poor kids.

      • Shirley Fleischman

        You can contact Annunciation House a non-profit that helps migrants in El Paso. They are aware of the needs of the migrants.

    • I’m a bilingual LCSW in Los Angeles with U.S./Mexico border experience. Available to help in San Diego or elsewhere.

    • maria Luisa Alejo

      I am a Retired RN with a active license I would like to know if there is a place close to Salinas, Ca area where I can go and volunteer to help medical wise this kids with assessments please reply in Email

    • Katie Schatzlein

      I am hoping to get a group of nurses together, when and if they lift their restrictions.

  12. HI, I agree with this National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Board Member Guadalupe G. Lara, LMSW, an expert on social work and immigration, is encouraging social workers to advocate for these children and “to speak to some of the facts because there’s a lot of misinformation on the other side.”

  13. MARIA DE Lourdes Lozano

    My son and I are interested in helping out .

    My son has a major in Psychology and various diplomas in Family counseling and a Masters in Education from Mexico Institutions. He speaks Spanish and English fluently. He lives in Mexico and would need to file for a Visa. Best time for volunteer work is summer when he is off from teaching employment.

    I am an English teacher in Mexico and a USA citizen. Best time is also the summer when I have some time off from teaching.

    Both of us have been helping people out in Mexico, for about 10 years, who wish to migrate to the States.

    Please let us know if you are interested and in need of services we are able to provide.

    Also, how do we request the visa for my son so he can provide help.

    Thank you in advance for your attention.
    Look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Regards,

    Maria de Lourdes Lozano
    and
    Paul Gonzalez Lozano

  14. I ama bi lingual LCSW with forensic and (CA) DCF experience. I am currently licensed in FL, and could conduct assessments in SW FL for those interned here.
    Best,
    Ellen M. Starbird, LCSW

  15. Hugh Gratz LCSW, Delaware

    I appreciate these remarks from the social work community. My questions:

    1) Did the NASW join with the ACLU in supporting its suit against this Administration regarding separating and detaining immigrant children?

    2) I’d like to know if there has been any movement by our state organizations or NASW to charge Federal officials and the Trump Administration with child abuse for irresponsible and abusive behavior, promoting policies that traumatize children.

    3) If not, any ideas about how to make this happen?

    • Thanks for your taking time to send your question Mr. Gratz. Are you an NASW member? If so, I can connect you to our Advocacy team or tell you how to get email alerts about NASW actions on this important matter.

      Greg Wright
      NASW Public Relations Manager

  16. Hello!

    My name is Meredith Warren and I am a Development Staffer with Circle of Health International. Circle of Health International (COHI) is a Texas based NGO that works with mamas and babies in the world’s hardest places.

    Over the last 14 years we’ve worked in twenty-two humanitarian settings, including the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. In the RGV we’ve staffed a clinic caring for refugees/asylees immediately upon their their release from Border Patrol for the last 4 years. The McAllen, Texas clinic is currently seeing upwards of 100 patients a day. Those being cared for in this clinic are the families that we are trying to keep together, and we’d love your help raising awareness about this work.

    In this action list on how individuals can help at the border, you name organizations that are in need of professionals and volunteers. COHI would love to be added to the list. We need forensic psychologists.

    COHI is currently seeking professional, licensed, Texas-based, Spanish-speaking forensic psychologists to assist with the review of asylee and refugee cases at detention centers in Texas. These individuals will be needed on a daily basis for up to 10 hours.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me at mwarren@cohintl.org with any further information you may need for the posting. Being a resource to individuals wishing to help and families is of the utmost importance to us.

    Thank you!

    • Good evening. I live in Oklahoma, I am a licensed practical nurse, I have been retired for two years. I would like to offer my help in any way possible. Please contact me if you have anything I can assist in any way.

  17. What about clergymen? Are they allowing ministers to go inside facilities to pray with them?

  18. Where do I find help regarding the separation of children from their family that happens every day here in Lee County Alabama? The workers here are directly responsible for this but I figured your organization would have a better suited person to comment. The ones from here are not very well trained. One shot himself in DC this past March. The pressure is horrific that workers have to endure on a daily basis. Props go out to the ones that care for their jobs. The ones that thought itd be a gravy job…bet u wish different now.

    • Good morning Ms. Page. Thanks for contacting us. Please reach out to the NASW Alabama Chapter to see if they have resources to help you. Here is their contact information:

      Address: 600 S Court St Ste 309, Montgomery, AL 36104-4106
      Phone:(334) 356-6841
      Email:dellis-murray.naswal@socialworkers.org
      Web:www.naswal.org

      Please check back with us if you need additional information.

      Sincerely,

      Greg Wright
      NASW Public Relations Manager

    • Tanya- I hope that the AL chapter can help with some resources for those folks. The pressure on social workers (and other helping professions) is tremendous and heart wrending… I know that there are some of us who would be happy to donate an hour periodically to help offer supportive counseling either individually or group to help mitigate burnout and compassion fatigue, and can take regular clients in person or telehealth. I’m in FL but licensed in AL and happy to meet with people on Skype.
      In any case- please tell those workers when you see them that they aren’t alone. It helps to know that there is a big network out here working to help and we’re in it together.
      -Sincerely,
      Tracy W

  19. I want to Volunteer via Catholic Charities in Texas. I am a Registered Nurse and an Attorney. Please reply who should I contact. Kind regards

    • Katie Schatzlein

      Hoping to get a group of nurses together to provide basic nursing care, hygiene, and triage for serious problems. once they lift restrictions.

  20. Hello,

    I am an MSW in California and since I work at a school, I have summers off. I would love to assist in Texas or any other facility that needs social workers for translation, assessment, or any other social work services. I am bilingual and my schedule is flexible. Also, if foster families are needed, please advise.

    Thanks so much,
    Hannah Epstein

  21. I’m a Hispanic and very heart broken for these children. I’m willing to go anywhere were I can help these children. I’m Hispanic, bilingual, a veteran and an emergency medical technician and a mother of two grown boys. My mother instincts is coming out.

  22. I live in Brooklyn – NY
    I am bilingual, have worked with children for many years, what can I do to help them?
    Who should I reach out so I can help in anyway posible.

    Thanks

    Natalia

  23. Please, keep those innocent little ones safe. They are possibly missing their mommy, daddy and siblings. I am here to volunteer my time, I am Bilingual, Mentor, Humanitarian. Send me an email asap. I have friends too that we can all unite and make a difference. Prayers are up and applause to All taking care of our lil ones. They deserve the best. Best Regards, Marcela Barnica-Olivar

  24. NASW Texas Contact:
    Will Francis. Wfrancisnaswtx@socialworkers.org
    Hoston Branch Chair Chanelle Omiwade
    Houstonswbranch@gmail.com

  25. I am a retired social worker and social work educator living in South Florida. Where is the nearest location for me to volunteer?

    • Hi Susan, I am working with the NASW Florida chapter. Are you still looking for volunteer opportunities in South Florida? There is a homestead site in Pompano Beach. I have a colleague working with an adult male population of detainees. I can put you in touch, if you’d like.

  26. I am a recent MSW graduate, form the Washington, D.C area. I would like to volunteer at the borders in TX. I am bilingual in both Spanish and English and I am open to serving in whatever is needed right now, in order to help the children and their families! Please let me know.

    – Susana Molina.

  27. I live in SATX and would be interested in helping this cause. Please contact me!

  28. Please do your due diligence before starting a campaign like this. This policy is 10 years old, not started by the current ad administration. There is more than what meets the eye like child trafficing among others.

  29. I’m a LMSW in Michigan. I’ve heard children are arriving here as well. I would like to lend support in anyway I can, but do not know where to start. Perhaps, you have some informatuon.

  30. Please present all of the facts on this issue, this policy is over 10 years old. It is not a new policy put in place y the current administration. Do your due diligence and get all of the facts.

    • Not true that taking children from parents is an old policy. Please stop believing the lies and propaganda from Trump and FOX. Jane Ellis (former law professor).

    • Veronica von Bernath Morra

      I am a Registered Nurse and Educational Psychologist. In reply to Kay Landery, who has written at least two nonsensical posts. She reads like a Trump Troll putting the blame on ” previous administration”. This is a blatent lie! Kay Landery: if you have facts, let us see them! Who, what, where, when and why. Otherwise, just get the hell off this forum!!

  31. I would also recommend that social workers get trained in conducting psychological evaluations (which I assume are being referred to as “health assessments”) for asylum cases. Physicians for Human Rights has free trainings through member organizations throughout the United States. In these cases, not knowing what you do not know can further complicate an immigration case and put the client at risk. There are some private practicioners, including myself, who offer fee-based training and supervision as well.

  32. Is there a need for foster homes? All of this political action is great but in the mean time the children are still in these horrible conditions. Let’s do something immediate and impactful NOW.

    • Alfredo Santiago

      The Board of Child Care in Woodlawn, MD is looking for foster parents for undocumented youth.

      Board of Child Care 410-922-2100.

      • Is there a foster program for migrant children like this in Miami, Fl? We must help all these children reunite with their families!

  33. Hi there:
    I teach in an MSW program and we have students all over the country. I am wondering if you could use translators remotely, maybe over Skype or gchat or something?
    Thanks.
    –Carly

  34. I’m a bilingual LMSW and live in Houston, Texas. Please let me know how I can help.

  35. I am interested in helping immigrant children separated from their families. I am a licensed social worker: LMSW-AP. However, I am in inactive status as I am retired and couldn’t afford to pay the licensing fees every year and take all of the required continuing education courses. Can I still volunteer to help? What will I be allowed to do or not do? Please email me. Thanks.
    Ana

  36. This article is blaming one man for the prosecution of illegal immigrants which is false when the truth and facts are illegal immigrants have been prosecuted before anyone in this thread was born. And the laws haven’t changed much since 1968 if at all.

  37. How do we find out where other detention centers are where families and children are being transported to?

    Are there detention sites in California?
    I am a bilingual, licensed social worker.

    Please advise.
    Dr. Karla

  38. Hi. I’m an MSW and would love to help.

  39. Greetings! I currently residing in Detroit MI; However, Moving back to Houston for good on 8/10/2018. I am a Social Worker LLMSW. Please tell me what to do to go volunteer. My last day of work at Detroit Receiving Hospital will be August 6, 2018. I will be unemployed and I would love to help.
    Thank you !

  40. I tried emailing this one ( general.naswtx@socialworkers.org ) and it bounced back.

  41. My name is Marcel Hernandez. I recently got graduated from my degree in social work, and I’m interested in being a volunteer before getting a formal job. I decided to study social work because I believe that humans must serve each other, specially the one in need. I live in Colombia, a country located in South America (spanish speaker). I could help as a translator or anything else the organization need.

    Many thanks for listening.

  42. I have a MSW, reside in TX and able to serve as a translator

  43. Alberto Palomino

    Good day,

    I am an MSW from Canada interested in travelling to Texas to serve as a translator and conduct health assessments. Would this be legally possible?

    Re:

    Serve as Translators, Conduct Health Assessments, Contact Congress
    Bilingual social workers living near where immigrants are being kept can volunteer to help detained immigrants by serving as translators and providing mental health assessments for those organizations that are providing families pro bono or reduced cost legal assistance.

    “If you’re a licensed social worker or above you can do these assessments as part of the (immigrants’) legal file,” says NASW member Mark Lusk, EdD, MSW, LMSW, and member of the Human Rights Committee of NASW Texas Chapter.

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