INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Unaccompanied minors coming into the United States across the Mexican border are finding temporary foster homes in Indianapolis.
Bethany Christian Services received approval from the Office of Refugee Resettlement in October 2018 and took in its first migrant child in March 2019, according to Tamara Timm, foster family coordinator for Bethany.
“Every child has come so far in the middle of the night, so they’re kind of tired, a little hungry, a little thirsty,” Timm said. “Really they’re just coming with the clothes on their back.”
As of June, the group has fostered 10 children: five still in family care and five who have been reunited with their family members.
“I think until you hear the stories and listen to them from mouths of children you really can’t understand what is actually happening,” Timm continued. “There’s corruption, extortion, the threat of kidnapping or sex trafficking, and we’ve seen a lot of hard stories with those children.”
Bethany employees say they do not take a political position on the crisis at the border, just that they’re in the business of caring for children stuck in the middle.
Timms explains her staff members don’t know where the migrant children go after reunification with their family members, whether that be deportation, to another country, or to a stateside home.
“They’re here with a temporary family for a short period of time while we try to find their families,” Timms said, emphasizing that the program is only for reunification, not adoption.
Per mandate from the ORR, children and families in the transitional foster care program cannot be videotaped, but Timm explained how the process works. The children show up at the border without a parent or guardian and are put in ORR custody and assigned to either a group shelter or a foster home. If that foster home is in Indianapolis, the children arrive at the airport and are taken to Bethany Christian Services.
“The first day they come into the program they make little people of what they look like and they get to decorate them how they want,” she said, referring to a wall with paper people-shaped cutouts, “and we have a board that shows all of the kids and where they’re from.”
The children have access to health care and legal services in Indianapolis, in addition to attending a specialized daycare/school at Bethany each day. The group’s goal is to reunify children with guardians within 3 months.
“I have worked with vulnerable kids in a long time and nothing has impacted me more than hearing these children’s’ stories,” said Timm, “and seeing them come into care and seeing the hope they have for what the next phase of their life looks like.”
When asked about the toll this could have in Indiana’s already over-burdened foster care system, Timm said Hoosiers can do both.
“Indianapolis has more than enough people to care for our children domestically as well as children who come from other places,” she said.
In order to become a foster parent with Bethany, you must be approved by the Indiana Department of Child Services and meet a set of requirements. Click here to learn more about the migrant transitional foster care program, and other foster and adoptive opportunities provided by Bethany Christian Services in Indianapolis.