In 2017, Legal Services for Children was invited to join Family for Every Child, an international alliance of locally-grown organizations. As a member organization of the Family for Every Child alliance, we have been active participants in the Children on the Move working group, alongside organizations in over a dozen other countries. We are currently working on four priority areas:
- Safer movement in Central America
- Childhood on the Move campaign
- Improving inter-agency efforts to (re)integrate children on the move between the Middle East and Europe
- Promoting better data and coordinated national approaches to supporting children on the move in Africa
The Childhood on the Move working group aims to build knowledge of the driving factors behind young people’s movement internally and cross borders, in order to create systemic change to better support children and youth on the move. We hope that through conceptualizing “childhood on the move” as an experience that spans different contexts, we can enable governments, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders to better recognize the needs of young people facing potential or actual movement. The working group engages young people in advocacy initiatives, such as the Photovoice project, to amplify their migration stories and help others better understand the challenges they face. The Childhood on the Move campaign has been implemented to generate public awareness of unsafe migration, and to catalyze practical actions that can make the movement of children and youth safer in source, transit, and destination locations.
Read about the Children on the Move Photovoice project, and download the project report in English and Spanish.
Around the world, forced displacement and migration have reached unprecedented levels, and are still on the rise. The recent influx of dislocated people includes an immense number of children who have had their lives disrupted. Climate change, natural disaster, poverty, prejudice, war, abuse, and lack of opportunity have devastated communities around the world; these are only a handful among many reasons why children are forced to leave their home country. Children on the move are at increased risk of labor exploitation, sexual and physical abuse, violence, poverty, lack of education, and even death.
Recent changes in immigration policies have only exacerbated the challenges experienced by young people in transit, and have created even more barriers to children and youth finding stability in their lives. Inflammatory anti-immigration policies have dramatically increased children’s vulnerability to harm and the likelihood that they will face violations of their legal and human rights in our immigration system.
LSC Supporting Children on the Move: Meet Veronica
When Veronica was only 15 years old, her stepfather arranged for her to live with an older man near their village in Guatemala. She didn’t want to be forced into a life she had not chosen for herself, and knew that the only way out was to escape from the community in which she had grown up. Without anywhere to go in Guatemala, Veronica’s only hope was to reach her family in the US. Her aunt lived in Oakland, California – a light at the end of the tunnel.
Veronica set out on her own and fled for the US border. She was apprehended upon arrival by Border Patrol and taken into custody by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. After sharing her story, she was able to access appropriate support to apply for asylum in the US so she could be united with her aunt. Once reunited, she could live the rest of her childhood with her family without the threat of being returned to Guatemala and forced by her stepfather into a life with a man she did not know.
Eventually, the Office of Refugee Resettlement released Veronica to the community, where she worked with LSC – we provided her with support in telling her story and securing legal immigration status in the US. This was a demanding process that took a lot of hard work; as challenging as it was, Veronica felt validated and supported by her attorney and social worker, and telling her story promoted her healing.
Now, with the support of her family and LSC, Veronica has been able to successfully transition to life in a new country. Her aunt’s family took her in and cared for her, which was a key element in her recovery from trauma. A few months after receiving asylum approval, she graduated from high school, paving the way for a brighter future in a country full of opportunity with the support of her extended family. Ultimately, asylum approval provided Veronica with a tremendous boost to her overall well-being.