On a cold winter night in February 2017, a New York City police officer noticed a 17-year-old boy sleeping on the subway. His name was Miguel*, and he had immigrated here from Guatemala to escape the gang violence, murder, and extreme poverty in his native village. The police officer brought him to Bellevue Hospital, where he received treatment for issues related to the unsanitary conditions of living on the street. A month later, he was discharged and placed into Children’s Aid’s foster care program.
When he first entered his new foster home, he struggled with PTSD and suicidal thoughts. He was traumatized from his years growing up in severe poverty, where routine violence and crime were part of daily life. And, the more recent homelessness and separation from his family made his struggles even worse. Miguel was grateful for the roof over his head and the newfound stability offered by his new foster family, but he clearly needed a lot of support. The process took several years, but through the dedication of his Children’s Aid foster mother, and the mental health counseling he received from Children’s Aid, he began to transform into a young man with a purpose.
His Children’s Aid Case Manager, Caroline, explained that once Miguel started to overcome his PTSD and his depression, he became laser-focused on securing employment and supporting his family back home. “He explained that if his family cannot pay money to local gang leaders, their land can be taken, or worse — they can even be killed,” Caroline revealed. The problem, however, was that he wasn’t legally allowed to work in the United States, so Children’s Aid’s legal advocacy services created a plan for Miguel to secure his papers and gain employment. We worked closely with an immigration lawyer, and in November 2019, we secured a refugee-like status for Miguel called “special immigrant juvenile,” paving the way for him to obtain a green card.
Shortly after this bright spot, his progress was soon interrupted by the pandemic. “Right now, he wants nothing more than to be able to work as he needs to support his family,” Caroline said. Since securing his legal status, he has continued to look for work despite his fears of run-ins with increasingly hostile immigration services, but the challenging job market during the pandemic has made this incredibly difficult. During these uncertain times for Miguel, Children’s Aid continues to help him look for employment, and provides him with mental health support, basic necessities, shelter, and access to an enrichment center for young adults — services that are only possible because of the support you gave to Miguel. Thank you for being there for Miguel, and for so many others like him.
*An alias name is being used to protect the safety and security of our client. All details of the story are true.