The unmanageable surge of unaccompanied minors in U.S. border states caused a drastic increase in federal spending last fiscal year, and the total is likely to double for fiscal year 2015.
In California, the issue has also become a magnet for private dollars of late.
Los Angeles County remains home to the largest concentration of Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans in the U.S. Thus, L.A. County remains the primary region receiving unaccompanied refugees in the state.
The Our Children Relief Fund was announced in August by the California Community Foundation with the assistance of the Weingart Foundation, California Wellness Foundation, California Endowment, and California Healthcare Foundation.
The fund will bundle donations from those foundations, along with private individual donations and disperse the funds to organizations that are serving unaccompanied minors in L.A. County. The partnership has raised $450,000 to seed the fund and will continue raising money over the next year.
The main focus of the fund will be to provide legal services, as well as support services, according to Maria Blanco, California Community Foundation’s VP of Civic Engagement.
“Many of these young children need legal counsel to help ensure that their due process rights are protected,” said Blanco, in an email to The Chronicle. “We have received reports that many of these children are appearing without representation before immigration judges. Also, it is well known that many of these children have survived tremendous trauma and violence and are in immediate need of mental health and family services as they join our communities and schools.”
The fund is not restricted to direct services, Blanco said; some money will be spent on basic community awareness. “An important function is the role of educating community members about the law and available resources.”
California Community Foundation is currently in the process of designing the application and award process, now that they have the first round of grant dollars secured.
Univision Communications Inc., the leading media company serving Hispanic America, is spearheading another California venture to assist unaccompanied minors. Univision announced a partnership with The California Endowment, The James Irvine Foundation and the Marguerite Casey Foundation to expand their “Estamos Con Los Niños” (“We Are With The Children”) campaign.
The campaign will expand the company’s awareness campaign by using its various media platforms to solicit donations from their viewers. Funds raised from the campaign will be disbursed to organizations providing aid and assistance to children as they are detained in temporary facilities and consequently when they are released into the care of foster families or sponsors.
California Endowment will contribute $500,000, Irvine has pledged $300,000 and the Marguerite Casey Foundation has committed $50,000 to support Univision’s campaign.
Judith Fenlon is the Money and Business editor of the Chronicle of Social Change.