The Crackdown on Immigrants and Refugees – What About the Children?

by Nakeesa Frazier-Jennings

Since writing an article about how the crackdown on immigrants and refugees is everyone’s problem, I have continued to find ways to support my immigrant and refugees community members. 

I’ve coordinated Know Your Rights Trainings, referred families to local agencies for assistance, attended trainings myself to become more versed in the many challenges that my immigrant and refugee committee members face and try to keep up with the ever-changing political climate.  Now, I am beginning my journey to advocate for the children who are or will be left behind when their parents are detained or deported. 

As a prospective adoptive parent, I have spent many years learning as much as I can about the adoption process.  I’ve read countless articles, attended seminars and conferences, spoken to current and former foster and adoptive parents and more!  Recently, I read an article in The South Seattle Emerald that talked about a new outreach program that Seattle-based agency Amara was about to launch specifically for African American prospective foster parents.

Due to my background in human services and preparing for my own adoption journey, I was already aware of the data that shows that foster and adoptive children who are placed in homes where there is a cultural match tend to have better outcomes than children who do not.  Yet, just as in many systems, there is a shortage of African American families who are either licensed foster parents or have shown interest in adopting a child.  

In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any differences between humans being based on their race, ethnicity, culture, etc. but unfortunately, at this time in our society, there is.  That is a fact. So, recently, I’ve started working with Amara on their outreach advisory council to help create a robust program that will do all the things necessary to get African American children into homes with parents who look like them.

But what does that have to do with the immigrant and refugee community?  Well, actually, quite a lot. There are many local families in the Greater Seattle/Western Washington area who are African immigrants and they are being targeted for detainment and deportation.  Many of these families have minor children who are citizens and are left behind when their parents are detained. 

In my last article, I talked about how safety planning is important for our immigrant and refugee neighbors. Part of a thorough safety plan is to have people listed that a parent would want to care for their child or children in the event that they are detained (or deported).  Since anyone can be detained indefinitely BEFORE even having a deportation hearing, it is critical that immigrant and refugees who are also parents have trustworthy friends, family or community members who can care for their children while they are away. 

It is also critical for the children to be in safe, secure homes where they can receive the many types of support that they will need after losing their parents even if the loss ends up being temporary. 

A race, language, spiritual and cultural match would be the most ideal in a less than ideal, and sometimes even tragic situation.  So, I have asked Amara to incorporate not only American-born African American families into their outreach efforts but also African immigrant and refugee families. 

My hope is that we will be able to help more immigrant and refugee families become licensed foster parents so that they can more seamlessly accept children from their community into their homes.  We, as community, need to be proactive rather than reactive since we have no idea how long the focus on our immigrant and refugee neighbors will be.  

This weekend, on Saturday, July 29th, Amara will be hosting an information session about how the community can support African American foster children and youth.  This will be the second conversation of its kind as a follow-up to the first session co-hosted by Amara and the Northwest African American Museum in May.  There was such an amazing turnout at the first conversation and the community has asked for more!  My hope is that any African American person in the Greater Seattle area who either wants more information about becoming a foster parent, the adoption process or how they can support this system in other ways will attend.  Please check out the details and sign-up to attend here.

Please remember, not only is the immigration and refugee issue in this country, everyone’s issue, we all need to remember the children of these community members who are innocent and are left without parents which is tragic and traumatizing.  Let’s do what we can to try and lessen the trauma by supporting the foster and adoption system!

Featured image is a cc licensed photo attributed to Charis Tsevis