This is the foster program in South Carolina caring for children - FOX Carolina 21

This is the foster program in South Carolina caring for children separated from their parents at the border

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COLUMBIA, SC (FOX Carolina) -

A foster care program in South Carolina operated by Lutheran Services Carolinas said it is caring for four immigrant children who were separated from their parents at the United States’ border with Mexico. A fifth child was also placed in South Carolina, but that child has been reunited with family.

Lutheran Services Carolinas said the family separations began in April after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new zero-tolerance policy of criminal prosecution for everyone entering the country without documentation and severe restrictions placed on people seeking legal asylum.  

Before President Trump’s executive order to halt the separations, LSC said more than 2,300 children were taken from their families. Five of those children were sent to LSC's Transitional Foster Care for Unaccompanied Children program, which is based in Columbia, by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

The children are between 7 and 11, and LSC said they have little understanding of why they were taken from their parents.

“We want to ensure these children are in safe, loving environments,” LSC Program Coordinator Becky Gibson said in a news release. “Apart from the trauma they experienced at the border, they have also likely experienced trauma in their home countries.”

Overall, LSC said it has provided care for about 30 children in the past year at ORR’s request.

Those 30, including the five children separated from their families at the border, have come from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and El Salvador.

"Many of these families are desperate,” Gibson stated “They are fleeing gang-related violence and feel they have no other choice if they want to keep their families safe. It's hard for most people to imagine what these families have faced that would make them attempt such a difficult journey to the United States."

Gibson said the goal is to reunite children with family, whether it be a family member who is already living in the United States, or the family member who has been detained. She said most children stay in LSC care for about a month.

“We are waiting direction from the Office of Refugee Resettlement on how to proceed with the reunification of detained parents and children,” Gibson said in a news release.  “We are hopeful for a safe and well-developed plan to be put in place.”

Gibson said her top priority when children arrive in Columbia is to get them in contact with their parents by phone. She said this can be difficult due to the current border situation, but all five of the children who were in LSC’s program were able to contact their families.

The children in LSC’s program attend school with bilingual tutors, go on field trips, and receive counseling during the week. They spend evenings and weekends with their foster families.

 Gibson said LSC currently only has resources to care for eight children at a time and that the program is looking to recruit additional foster families. Speaking Spanish isn’t a requirement.

PREVIOUSLY: DSS: Immigrant children being placed in South Carolina are not in their care

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