There are growing numbers of immigrant children in Connecticut. Most are from Central America and South America, but children also arrive from Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean.
A forgotten population, these students are often under the radar of educators. They have very few advocates to draw attention to their needs.
Many children have significant trauma related to arrival in the United States. Many arrive alone, without a parent or guardian. They fled abuse and neglect and live in constant fear of being returned to life-threatening conditions. English is not their primary language. Education is hampered by trauma and inconsistent schooling.
The Center for Children’s Advocacy helps at-risk children avoid deportation to a dangerous environment, and helps traumatized children get the support they need to learn English and succeed in school.
“The Center’s legal advocacy for immigrant children fills an enormous need in Connecticut. Without the Center for Children’s Advocacy, these children would slip through the cracks. Their expertise helps hundreds of at-risk children, educating Connecticut attorneys and guiding the state in supports for children who desperately need help to find safety, security and educational success.”
– Claudia Connor, President and CEO, CT Institute for Refugees and Immigrants
American Immigration Council (Immigrants’ Rights in Connecticut)
Fabiana was abused by her father from the time she was a toddler. He abandoned the family when Fabiana was two years old and the family became homeless. Her mother had a heartbreaking choice to make: continue a life of abject poverty on the dangerous streets in Guatemala City, or leave the country and face her chances in the United States.
Because Fabiana was so young, her mother thought it was not safe to take her to the US. She knew mothers who had made the risky trip, walking for miles, jumping onto trains, hiding children in secret spaces like under the front seat of a car – and finding, when they stopped, that the child had suffocated and died. She left Fabiana with a relative and left for the US.
Fabiana was devastated. And she was certainly not safe. Over the next years, gang violence increased and gangs extorted money for protection. More of Fabiana’s relatives fled for the US, and she bounced from one home to the next, until – in a crowded home – she was sexually victimized.
The trauma caused Fabiana to become withdrawn and quiet. Her mother felt something changed in their daily calls, but Fabiana would not tell her what happened. Her mother knew she could no longer wait to bring Fabiana to the US, and made arrangements for the difficult journey.
Fabiana was assaulted by the man paid to help her get to her mother. She revealed nothing when she was apprehended at the border by immigration authorities. She was put in a detention facility with many other children, and it took weeks for Fabiana to get out, finally sent to her mother in Connecticut.
When Fabiana arrived, her mother learned she had been cutting herself. She was withdrawn, sad, quiet .. and had frightening outbursts of anger. A therapist helped Fabiana disclose the terrible victimization she had suffered in Guatemala, and recently on her journey north. Her mother was devastated.
Fearing that Fabiana would be sent back to Guatemala, her mother turned to the Center for Children’s Advocacy. We helped immediately, and Fabiana obtained Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a special form of immigration relief available to abused, neglected or abandoned children. After traumatic years and a perilous journey, she finally had some protection. She is enrolled in school and taking an English Language Learner (ELL) class, improving her English each day.
The memories are haunting, but Fabiana is safe. Like the immigrant children we have all seen in the news, those who arrive in Connecticut suffer incredible trauma to get here. Your support creates opportunities for safety and healing for children who rely on us.