Seattle non-profit takes in kids separated from parents


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Seattle non-profit that has received millions of dollars from the federal government confirmed Thursday it has taken in immigrant children who have been recently separated from their families. 

YouthCare communications specialist Brittny Nielsen said the non-profit cares for as many as 20 young people in its Casa de Los Amigos emergency shelter. The immigrant children range in age from 12- to 17-years-old; Nielsen said the majority arrive alone, fleeing war, gang violence, and extreme poverty. 

“Recently, however, a small number of young people have arrived at YouthCare who need our support because they have been separated from their families,” Nielsen said.  

YouthCare received $1.9 million in federal funds under the Unaccompanied Alien Children program in fiscal year 2018 and $2.5 million under the same program in fiscal year 2017.  

Nielsen said that the non-profit’s emergency shelter is staffed by bilingual employees, and that the organization provides the young people with legal assistance, education, and health care. 

She added that the arrival of the young people separated from their families motivates the non-profit to fight for change. 

“We categorically condemn the atrocities at the border and demand that the government reunites the families they have actively separated,” Nielsen said. 

There are two other organizations in Washington state that have received federal funds under the Unaccompanied Alien Children Program. Friends of Youth, based in Kirkland, WA, was awarded $4.8 million in fiscal year 2018. 

Friends of Youth CEO Terry Pottmeyer spoke to KOIN 6 News by phone Thursday evening. Pottmeyer would not comment on whether or not the organization has taken in any immigrant children recently separated from families at the border. 

Pottmeyer said the organization has received federal grant funds under the program since 2009. Friends of Youth has 21 immigrant children in foster care placements, and 16 immigrants — all boys — in a group care setting. Pottmeyer said the group care setting provides more specialized care and therapeutic support to children with mental health issues and behavioral challenges. She said they typically spend 6 months in the group care setting before being transferred to a less restrictive, foster care placement. 

Pottmeyer said reunification with family members or sponsors living in the U.S. is a “very important goal” for the organization.

A third non-profit, Seattle’s Pioneer Human Services, also took in $2.8 million in the 2018 fiscal year. KOIN 6 News has reached out to both Pioneer Human Services for an interview. 

This story will be updated. 

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