Catholic Charities of Fort Worth doubles size of refugee facility

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by BYRON HARRIS

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WFAA

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 8:07 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 3 at 5:34 PM

FORT WORTH -- Counselors at Catholic Charities of Fort Worth (CCFW) hear horrific tales from children who struggle to make it to the U.S. from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Heather Reynolds, president of CCFW, described the story of an 8-year-old girl who stayed at the agency's shelter.

"She shared with us that several other of her little girlfriends went missing," Reynolds said. "When they finally returned, she described that they had lost their hearts [...] several of her neighborhood friends were taken, and then returned dead to her doorstep with their organs cut out of them."

The same child was sold as a sex slave on her journey north, Reynolds said.

CCFW will expand its capacity to help unaccompanied kids to 32 beds by the end of the month.

The children are sent to Fort Worth from Border Patrol stations along the Mexico border, where they're supposed to be housed for no more than three days, but are currently spending as long as three weeks. Children are flown to Fort Worth, where they are fed, clothed, vaccinated, and counseled.

In the counseling sessions, adults learn some of the dark experiences the children lived through.

Fort Worth, and other shelters like it, are way stations for the refugees. They stay at CCFW from two weeks to a month. Most arrive at the board with a phone number memorized, Reynolds said. That number usually belongs to a family member.

The shelter's job is to ultimately connect with the person who belongs to that number.

"We do criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and income assessment of that person," Reynolds said. "Then that information is compiled and sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)."

ORR then decides whether the refugee can stay with the family member until it's time to appear in immigration court. It can take a year for a child to get an appearance there.

A small number of children - three out of the 200 CCFW has processed so far - are connected with foster families.

Catholic Charities is asking for financial and material support for the program. You can

donate at this link

. But most of all, it's asking for people to consider being foster families.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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