by Olivia Knight, MAS, Juntos para Jóvenes/United for Youth Case Manager
Today I want to share a heartwarming story of a student whose custody hearing I observed in person. I started working with the student last year, when I first began working at Project Libertad as a case manager. This particular client was an excellent student during her first year of school in the United States, and she had received almost all As, despite the fact that none of the teachers at school spoke her first language, an indigenous language.
Things changed during her second year, and I still remember the first messages we exchanged, in which she told me about her pregnancy. She was scared and unsure of how to proceed. She had a lot of absences from school, and when her baby was born in the spring, she left school due to a lack of childcare.
We knew that she had a track record of academic excellence, and we also knew that school attendance would be an important factor in obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. So, at Project Libertad, we strongly advocated for her. We helped her reach out to a custody lawyer who was willing to take her case and worked closely with her on it. We connected with her teachers and high school administrators, who created a personalized path for her to continue school online. We arranged for a social worker to evaluate past trauma, to help explain why she left her home country, and why she missed so much school. And finally, we connected with her father, who is her caregiver and was instrumental in providing all the resources she needed to be successful.
Thanks to all of these efforts and collaborations, we obtained the custody order required for her immigration case, and her Special Immigrant Juvenile Status application was filed this week!
Learn more about Olivia's work here.