Ruban H. – A Life Reborn Through Belief

ruban-hHanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing sports – markers of typical teenage life – were things Ruben H. could only dream of in Honduras.

“It’s hard to make people understand what it’s like in Honduras, but I’m OK with telling it,” Ruben says. “I want to help people understand why I left.”

A RISK WORTH TAKING

Ruben escaped violent cartel drug trade, human exploitation and ransom kidnappings by walking from his village of Dolores in the Honduran state of Copán. He was just 14.

“Tell the truth and you’re in trouble,” Ruben says. “Because I saw people stealing things, other people wanted to kill me.”

Walking from Honduras, through Guatemala and into Mexico – a grueling trek of 800 miles by road or longer if by trail or field – Ruben and other migrants boarded the Ruta Golfo, a freight train running along Mexico’s Gulf Coast.

Filled with migrants sitting in cargo beds or atop boxcars with no protection from the elements, the trains are rife with criminals seeking victims for kidnapping ransoms.

“One night I huddled for warmth with a stranger so I didn’t die from the cold,” Ruben says. “If I was crying or feeling sad, I asked God to take care of me.”

On August 1, 2012, wearing nothing but the clothes he traveled over 1,000 miles in, Ruben waded across the Rio Grande River into the United States.

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TOURING AMERICA

Almost immediately, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took Ruben into custody, kicking off a 26-month, five-state tour of residential foster care facilities. In October 2014, Ruben entered Caminos, BCC’s program for unaccompanied children. Titled to honor the Spanish translation for “journey,” Caminos offered short-term shelter, medical care and case management support while youth awaited reunification with family or a sponsor.

BCC’s challenge initially was paperwork – without citizenship papers or a birth certificate, Ruben could not apply for a visa – and because he wasn’t 18, he could not stay in the United States. Viviana Camacho, Ruben’s BCC case manager, called the Honduran State Department several times a day for two weeks to unravel Ruben’s riddle.

Camacho had to get creative, too. “We drew a map, discovered Ruben’s hometown and ran an announcement on a local Honduran radio station,” Camacho says. “Someone heard it and told his mother. That was the break we needed.”

“That was maybe the best day of my life,” Ruben says of hearing his mother’s voice for the first time in three years. “My mother was so happy to hear me.”

FINALLY, SOME GRACE

Armed with his birth certificate and with help from a DC law firm, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR), BCC helped Ruben qualify as a Child In Need of Assistance (CINA). That meant Ruben could stay in the United States instead of banishment back to Honduras when he turned 18.

Ruben embraced American culture. He played striker on his Baltimore County high school soccer team. He has made friends while taking hold of American culture. He learned to text in English, and has written close to 70 songs in Spanish.

Ruben believes his life has purpose thanks to the Board of Child Care. “In America, I’m not facing the danger I feared in Honduras,” Ruben says. “I’ve already done the hardest part. I’m at BCC because I believe God
wanted me to make a good decision.”

This story originally appeared in our 2015 Annual Report.  Click here to read all past annual reports.

Board of Child Care was operating the Caminos program in partnership with the Federal Government.  The grant has since concluded and the Caminos program is no longer offered at BCC. Read the full article here

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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.

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