All five migrant children who were placed in S.C. foster care now reunited with families

FILE - In this June 1, 2018, file photo, children hold signs during a demonstration in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Miramar, Fla. The Trump administration's move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has turned into a full-blown crisis in recent weeks, drawing denunciation from the United Nations, Roman Catholic bishops and countless humanitarian groups. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

All five migrant children who were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border and placed in S.C. foster care have been reunited with their families.

Rebeca Gibson, program coordinator with Lutheran Services Carolinas, said she personally escorted the last child, a 7-year-old, to Texas to reunite with her mother this week.

“I hadn’t seen the girl cry before, but she got into her mom’s lap and cried. They both were crying, it was emotional,” Gibson said.

Lutheran Services Carolinas coordinates foster care in South Carolina for immigrant children through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

READ MORE | Five immigrant children separated from families at the border placed in S.C. foster care

Three of the children were reunited with parents who had been released from detention centers, however, two siblings left South Carolina foster care and are now in a family detention center, Gibson said.

“It was not what we were expecting; we were hoping they’d be released with their mother,” she said. "But they were reunited with their mother and, as a family unit, they were sent to family detention center.”

The policy of separating children from their parents came into the national spotlight last month, when the Trump administration stated the policy was a way to deter people from illegally crossing into the United States. More than 2,000 minors were separated from their families. Many children were housed in temporary shelters and others were sent to foster care.

However, a court order imposed a deadline on the Trump administration to release all children aged between five and 17 to their parents. San Diego federal judge Dana Sabraw ruled that all the detained minors separated under the policy should be brought back to their families by July 26.

“We got a call that all reunifications had to happen before Thursday,” Gibson said.

Gibson said all the children flew from Columbia to border states, including Texas and Arizona. Adults with Lutheran Services Carolinas accompanied each child.

While in S.C. foster care, the children attended school with bilingual tutors, received group and individual therapy and went on field trips to water parks and museums.

Lutheran Services Carolinas is continuing its mission of helping undocumented, unaccompanied children find sponsors and family members in the United States.

The organization has been taking in unaccompanied minors since September 2017, well before children being separated from their families was in the national spotlight.

“We are trying to keep them in the limelight; they have all gone through really similar traumas,” Gibson said. “They are an unaccompanied child if they came here without their parents and are not in the custody of parents; they have experienced a similar situation and I hope they are not forgotten, they are all facing the same issues in their home countries.”

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