Caminos Program Closes Its Doors

Girls program opens in its place

In May of 2014, Board of Child Care became the only residential facility in Maryland selected by the Federal government to work with a very special population of youth: children who came across the border of the United States from Central America in an attempt to reunite with a family member.

Titled to honor the Spanish translation for “journey,” BCC’s Caminos program offered short-term shelter care, education, medical, and placement support to migrant children. The majority were from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Before placing children with a US-based family member, BCC’s case managers conducted background checks, fingerprinting and extensive interviews. All children who came through BCC will ultimately go before an immigration judge, who will decide if they can remain permanently.

Just about a year after Caminos opened, BCC received word from the Federal government that our grant would not be renewed. This was purely a fiscal decision and was part of a consolidation of bed counts nationwide. The quality of programming or service delivery was not a factor. Caminos officially opened on May 19, 2014, and operated for nearly 15 months, serving boys between the ages of nine and 18. The official closing date of the program was Sept. 30, 2015

Caminos residents enjoyed snow for the first time in 2014

BCC had the opportunity to achieve some incredible outcomes for these very vulnerable youth, including victims of human trafficking. Caminos served 279 unaccompanied children in total. Out of all the minors released from the program, ~ 20% were released to sponsors in Maryland and the surrounding states.

Prior to Caminos, all 109 beds on the Baltimore campus were set aside for referrals from the state of Maryland’s various social service departments. With Caminos closed, fifty beds were now available again. Kelly Berger, former program director for Caminos, championed the relaunch of a girl’s residential program to use those empty spaces.

“As group homes across the state close and many programs are moving away from working with girls, we have confirmed this is a need,” said Berger. “The cornerstone of the girls’ program was born from what we saw in the Caminos program and the knowledge we can do something better for those we serve.”

Girls with unresolved traumas, including those who suffered from sexual abuse, parental neglect, involvement with negative peer groups, or even human trafficking, are the new program’s target. BCC welcomed the first female residents to the new program at the end of 2015.