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Immigrant Youth Shelters

Mission: Reunifying unaccompanied immigrant children with their families while providing shelter and services in a nurturing and therapeutic environment.

Unaccompanied children enter the United States every year from countries all over the world such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, China, and Honduras. Some come to escape epic portions of violence in their home countries, some are trafficked into the country, some come to work, others to escape abuse and poverty. All of the children Southwest Key serves through its Unaccompanied Minors Shelter Programs are under 18 years old and here without a parent or guardian. These children are in search of their families and a better life.

Southwest Key is the largest provider of licensed shelter services to unaccompanied children in the United States and has been providing such services for over 17 years. Our programs encourage the development of personal and academic skills while they are in our care. We honor and respect individual cultures and traditions and provide humanitarian services in a nurturing and homelike environment. Trained staff is available 24 hours a day to support the children with any needs that arise during their stay at the program. In addition, while the children are in the program they receive an array of services including case management, legal, medical/dental, educational (on-site), vocational, recreational, and religious services. The length of stay in SWK shelters is approximately 21 days as arrangements are made to either reunite the youth with relatives living in the United States or back in their home country.

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Child's Country of Origin

Unaccompanied immigrant children leave their home countries for the United States for a variety of reasons including to escape violence, to rejoin loved ones, and to find work to support their families. The children are primarily coming from the following three countries: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Cultural Competency

Southwest Key hires staff that are reflective of the cultures of these youth and are able to communicate with them in their native languages. This creates a comforting atmosphere for the youth. Additionally, decorations, posters, books, games and other entertainment are provided in the young people's native language. Youth also receive English lessons to help their transition in this country and learn about the languages and cultures of their peers. This helps them begin to understand the complexities of a multicultural nation such as the United States.

Sketch Artist

"I climbed mountains [to come] here, and my dreams finally became a reality. I waited for so long, but I made it thanks to God. And, I thank God for this opportunity, which I will take advantage of. I give thanks to all those people with good hearts that helped me. I will never forget [Southwest Key Programs] because they treated me as part of their family and this is why I am thankful ... I am happy."   ~ Eliseo, Program Resident