Mary’s Center answers the call for help of unaccompanied minors (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this blog, which followed the recent announcement in the news of another wave of unaccompanied children coming to the United States, Claudia Carmargo, Mental Health Therapist, started to share her experience of working with these minors. Now, in Part 2, Ms.Camargo describes some of the ways in which Mary's Center helps the children, and salutes their courage.

This past Fall I began working with a parent who was in the process of having his 13 year old daughter migrate to the U.S. from El Salvador.  This father had last seen his daughter when she was three years old and was having her brought to the U.S. because she was being threatened by local gang members. He expressed excitement at reuniting with his daughter and being able to provide her with a brighter future in the U.S.  As a therapist, I attempted to explore with him what challenges he may encounter once daughter and he reunified. My client was blissfully ignorant of any problems that might occur. 
My client’s daughter arrived in the U.S. in late September 2015 and his anxiety levels have increased significantly since his daughter’s arrival. He has expressed concern over how to parent a teenager, setting appropriate limits without inhibiting his daughter from adjusting to the American culture, as well as connecting her with her own mental health services as an undocumented adolescent. 
Connecting unaccompanied minors to services has been a challenge that Mary’s Center has taken on without reservation. My client was able to enroll his daughter as a Mary’s Center participant in order to receive medical, dental and mental health services right away.
Aside from the clinic services available for unaccompanied minors at Mary’s Center, there are also recreational activities that minors can participate in such as the Teen Program, Health Promotion and Acculturation Groups. Similarly to Mary’s Center, there are other organizations that provide some level of support to unaccompanied minors, such as the Latin American Youth Center and Identity
Despite the availability of these community services and supports there still is a shortage of services available to unaccompanied minors. At Mary’s Center we have the ability to use a sliding fee scale to provide services to this population. As  a Community Health Center that provides services regardless of our participants’ ability to pay, we must continue to identify financial grants and support to cover the cost of those who cannot afford to pay for their services. 
Despite the many challenges involved in providing services to unaccompanied minors, as a mental health therapist this experience has been both humbling and enlightening.  Providing these children with a safe space to talk about their feelings, fears and dreams has given me a newfound respect for the plight of unaccompanied minors in the U.S.  At a time in my life when one of my main concerns was my parents picking up the house phone while I attempted to get on the internet via dial-up, these children were making a trek to the US, a country they’d never been to before, alone or with strangers.   Professionally, my work with this population has taught me a new meaning of the words empathy and compassion. The unaccompanied minors have also encouraged me to learn more about the difficulties of acculturation into the American culture for these adolescents. Personally, I’ve become so much more appreciative of the childhood I’ve had and the opportunities that I have and will have as an American citizen. 

About Claudia CamargoLGSWMSW:

Claudia Camargo began her work specializing in therapy for children and families at Mary’s Center in June 2014, and works at both the Flower Avenue and Adelphi locations. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Family Science from the University of Maryland in College Park, and a Master of Social Work from University of Maryland in Baltimore. Along with her degrees, she is also licensed in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She would like to remind people that “Every day is different.Tomorrow could be much better.” Ms. Camargo speaks both English and Spanish, loves dogs, and enjoys yoga, reading, going to the beach, and dancing.


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