A Visit from KIND (Kids In Need of Defense)
Written by Meryl Safar, WithinReach Specialist, AmeriCorps
WithinReach Intercultural Competency Committee works to bring in guest organizations to inform our staff about their work, and how they’re making an impact in the community we all live in. Often times, these organizations give us insights into what our own clients might be facing. This helps us as a staff to better empathize with situations our clients might be in and to be able to refer them to the right services.
Last month we had the pleasure of hosting Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) at our Healthy Connections Team Meeting. Our presenters were Melody Young, Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney and Ellen Reed, Social Services Coordinator, who shared the organization’s origin and how they work to provide legal services for unaccompanied children. The legal classification of an unaccompanied child is someone that is under the age of 18 who has no immigration documentation, and has no parent or legal guardian that can provide care and physical custody at the time of the child’s arrival to the United States. Their work is crucial because in Washington State where no one, including children, has the right to legal representation in immigration court unlike other courts of law.
Legally unaccompanied children are not unaccompanied by choice. They are frequently escaping complex and varying situations of violence, neglect, and persecution in their home countries. Founded 10 years ago in part by celebrity Angelina Jolie and backed by Seattle’s own Microsoft, KIND has now grown into a nationwide organization. With field offices in multiple urban communities (Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Houston, L.A, Newark, New York City, San Fran, Seattle, WA DC), KIND has been able to connect with 14,542 referred children as of April, 2017. 477 legal professionals and associations function as partners in supporting the mission of KIND.
KIND actively works at all levels of the immigration system. They are directly involved in policy development and intentional lobbying for immigration reform. KIND representatives advocate on behalf of the children they serve to ensure equity in legal treatment. Furthermore, they protect unaccompanied children so that those children have access to the healthy futures they deserve. In order to achieve these goals KIND attorneys, alongside numerous volunteers and partners, work one-on-one with children to help navigate a multifaceted legal system.
Specifics for Seattle Field Office: KIND accepts referrals for children between the ages of 0-18. However, the majority their referrals are for children between 16-18 years old. Primary underlying cause of forced un-accompaniment for Seattle referrals is gang violence, domestic violence, violence against children living on the street and persecution.
Referral Guidelines for KIND: Clients must live in King County or have supporting adults that work in the Seattle area. Clients also must be under 18 years old and meet the 200% of the federal poverty guideline income level. Cases are prioritized by level of urgency such as if a child is in removal proceedings.
How to refer someone to KIND: Call to start the referral process at (206) 359-2366. In the voicemail include the name of caller, name of child, reason for calling, country of residence, phone number, upcoming court dates, and name of referral agency (if applicable).
Volunteering with KIND: With their service to many unaccompanied children from South America, KIND works with bilingual volunteers to help translate between attorney and child. Here at WithinReach, one of our Bilingual Specialists on our Healthy Connections Team, Bradley Mills, volunteers for KIND as an Assistant to the Case legal interpreter. During his time at KIND, he has assisted many children with interpreting complicated legal lingo and providing translating support to attorneys, children and their families and caretakers. As a volunteer, he follows specific cases and interprets whatever phone calls or documents may arise along the way. Bradley, and volunteers like him, call families with the attorney present and asks for further information while navigating family situations. When going over complex legal documents with children, volunteers and attorneys try to bring normalcy to the child’s life by connecting with them about friends, hobbies, school, and family.
“It is hard to ask children to step up when they just want to be a kid.” -Bradley Mills
- 75% of referrals, in the Seattle branch, come from Central American Countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
- Primary languages spoken: Spanish and Indigenous languages
- 60% Of children arriving in the U.S. have no one to represent them in immigration court
- Children without representation are five times more likely to be deported
In order to best provide holistic and sustainable support, KIND works to understand the child’s journey and incorporates the children’s personal stories into their work. An unaccompanied child faces barriers such as gender-based violence, deprivation, and often trauma. All of the barriers continue throughout the legal process, and are not restricted to the child’s journey to the United States. The deportation system for young children and people that do not have representation is incredibly limiting. Limitations such as language, legal vocabulary, background knowledge of the U.S legal systems, knowledge of what your status and requirements are, and fear of deportation are just a few of the barriers at play. Combine these barriers with the struggles of being a child in a foreign country, the children have an intensely arduous journey to physical, emotional, and social well-being. Every child deserves the opportunity to flourish without these barriers, and KIND works towards reducing the difficulties that these children face when confronting immigration court in the U.S.
These statistics were provided to WithinReach staff at our December presentation from KIND and their 2017 Corporate Volunteer Fact Sheet. For more information about KIND and the work that they do, please visit https://supportkind.org/ or contact the KIND Seattle office at firstname.lastname@example.org