By Tom Iacuzio
Every day, thousands of individuals, families, and children arrive at the U.S. border after making an often-dangerous journey to seek refuge.
"Most of these children aren't being sent here of their own accord," said enCircle Clinician Roxana Amundsen. "They’re sent here by family to have better lives than the ones they’re leading. And I always think, thank God they made it here safely."
For enCircle's Transitional Foster Care team, reuniting unaccompanied children with family or providing a foster placement is the culmination of countless hours of work. But nothing can prepare you for the feeling of reunifying a child with their family.
"It's every emotion you can think of," said Roxana. "You go through everything with this child, and then you get to the airport and family is there to greet them and it’s just a massive emotional experience."
Once the children arrive, they go through an intake process that includes a medical examination. In addition, they are provided mental health services and an educational program each day, where they’re taught English and other academic subjects while they await placement or reunification.
Recently, Roxana had the chance to accompany a child on a journey from Richmond to rejoin family in Hartford, CT.
She remembers the child didn't seem to understand what was about to happen, and she tried her best to explain that in just a few hours, he'd be seeing his mother and older brother again. However, she wasn't prepared for his initial reaction.
"In the littlest voice, he asked me if instead he could come back to Virginia and stay with us," Roxana said, her eyes clearly showing the emotion of the moment. "It was the realization that we had touched his heart as much as he had touched ours."
When they disembarked the plane in Hartford, it was his older brother who caught sight of him first, yelling "hermanito!" or "little brother!" across the airport. His mother followed closely behind, and once within reach, hugged him and told him how much she had missed and loved him.
"By then, I had turned into chopped liver, and his attention was on his mother and brother," said Roxana, with a smile. "And I would have it no other way."
She remembers shedding tears of joy as she left the airport, knowing a family had been forever changed through their different journeys to the U.S., culminating with their reunification.
"You leave them feeling like they're going to be ok, and that’s a feeling that will never go away," she said. "It gives me great pride and unforgettable joy that our team at enCircle made it all happen."