Gathering Everyone Around the Table

Thanksgiving is a special time at Heartland Alliance. It provides staff members and participants the opportunity to connect with one another, and to reflect on our progress and successes. From refugees and immigrants celebrating the holiday for the first time, to survivors of trafficking and violence who have found peace in the past year, Heartland Alliance programs of all backgrounds had a chance to celebrate.

Freedom From Trafficking: Day of Thanks Celebration

Gathering participants, staff, interns, and volunteers to celebrate at Catalyst Ranch, our Freedom from Trafficking (FFT) program spent the holiday focusing on community and the things that bind us together. Attendees shared the things they’re grateful for on the “Tree of Thanks”—their lives, their families, the people who make them smile, their health, and “all the incredible people who make every day a step forward.”

Each year, the FFT team recognizes a local partner with the “Bridge to Freedom Award” during the celebration. This year, HHCS Executive Director David Sinski and FFT Associate Director Darci Flynn presented Kourtney and Lauren Seamen of Reach 77—a faith-based network of volunteers throughout Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods—in recognition of their many years of contributions to the FFT and Heartland community. Among other supports, Kourtney and Lauren opened up a food pantry out of their storage room, donated money to help furnish survivors’ homes, adopted several families over the holidays to ensure they had gifts to open with their children, and provided housing for survivors facing homelessness.

Thanks to the Seamens and Reach 77 – we are truly grateful for you!

READI Chicago Celebration

READI Chicago outreach partner, UCAN, hosted a Thanksgiving celebration for the READI Chicago North Lawndale location. READI Chicago staff from UCAN, Lawndale Christian Legal Center, and the North Lawndale Employment Network joined participants for food, music, and thanks. During the celebration, participants received awards for timeliness and participation in cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as recognition for advancing to Stage 2 in their transitional jobs.

Marjorie Kovler Center Cooking Group

This Thanksgiving, staff and participants from many programs gathered to cook, eat, and give thanks for the communities, opportunities, and safety they have found through Heartland Alliance. The Marjorie Kovler Center celebrated Thanksgiving with an international cooking group. Survivors of torture and their families came together to share recipes and memories from back home. The result? A globally inspired Thanksgiving meal like no other!

Refugee and Immigrant Community Services – RICSGIVING

Our refugee resettlement team loves to celebrate their annual tradition, where new Americans from around the city gather to eat, connect, and enjoy the holiday season – with some enjoying Thanksgiving for the very first time! Students created “Gratitude Jars” where they decorated mason jars and filled them with little notes about things in their lives that they’re grateful for, as well as painted pictures to hang near the “Gratitude Turkey.”

Students also selected feathers on our Gratitude Turkey and wrote one thing they’re thankful for.

The Refugee and Immigrant Community Services (RICS) team is particularly thankful for their longtime partner and supporter, East Bank Club. The River North fitness club has been a longtime employer of numerous new Americans, providing them the opportunity necessary to rebuild their lives in Chicago. Every Thanksgiving, the team at EBC give their employees the option to donate their Thanksgiving Day turkeys to our resettlement programs. Thank you!

Join Us To Protect the Rights and Dignity Of Immigrants and Asylum Seekers

Heartland Alliance was founded over 130 years ago to provide support and uphold the dignity of immigrants and refugees. We have long supported policies that promote welcoming communities, and advance the fair treatment of and opportunities for immigrants and their families.  And we know that immigrants and refugees make our city and country stronger economically, safer, and more robust socially and culturally.  Despite our efforts, these past several months have been extremely difficult for the participants we serve.

The current Administration has actively worked to undermine the rights and humane treatment of those who are most vulnerable and, in particular, to stoke fear and confusion in immigrant communities. We strongly oppose these actions that harm individuals seeking safety in the U.S. and that erode long-standing protections for immigrants and asylum seekers. 

We are seeing a loss of lawful status; enforcement strategies that terrorize communities and make U.S. borders hostile to asylum seekers; the erosion of the U.S. refugee resettlement programs; and an increased focus on detention and deportation. ALL of these actions strike at our core values and tangibly cause harm to the people we serve, our neighbors, and our communities.

And we are still picking up the pieces of the Administration’s abhorrent zero tolerance policy, which led to the forced separation of thousands of children from their parents.  As of today, Heartland Human Care Services (HHCS) is providing shelter to four of the ninety-nine children who had been in our care as a result of the zero tolerance policy.  We continue to do all that we can to reunite all of the children in our shelters with their families, as we strongly believe families belong together. 

We recognize that there is misinformation and confusion about HHCS’s shelter program for unaccompanied minors.  Some believe we should not provide shelter for unaccompanied minors who have entered this country alone, and that we should shut down our shelters altogether.  But how can we turn our backs on children who arrive at our borders alone and afraid, and in search of safety and a better life here in the U.S?  We believe that doing so would serve only to further undermine the immigration system in this country for the very people we were founded to serve. And that in the absence of our doing this work, we would see an increase in the inhumane detention of children and families we so vehemently oppose. 

Heartland Alliance is tackling these issues head-on through policy advocacy, legal and support services, and public education efforts.  And we invite you to join us and hundreds of other organizations across the U.S. to fight against this erosion of rights and to promote the dignity of all people. 

 


Our Statement Regarding Policies and Licensing Related to Our Unaccompanied Minors Program

July 23, 2018 — Today, Heartland Alliance was pleased to share with City Council our policies, practices and licensing requirements related to the services we provide to unaccompanied minor and separated children. In response to questions about our city contracts, we can say that the unaccompanied minor program is fully funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Over the last week, we’ve heard allegations about our programs that are troubling as they do not reflect our values or the quality of care we strive to provide. As is our practice, upon learning about allegations, we immediately self-reported our concerns to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Department of Children and Family Services. We are investigating and are reviewing incident reports, medical records, staff disciplinary reports, examining our policies and protocols, and more. We welcome additional investigation of our programs, and if any investigation reveals that a staff member placed a child in danger, we will take immediate action. Ensuring the safety and well-being of all children in our care is our top priority. We have augmented the staff capacity and oversight at our shelters while we await the outcome of all investigations, and all shelter staff are receiving additional mandatory training on trauma-informed care by the end of July.
                                                                                                                                                    
Heartland Alliance is a 130-year-old human rights organization that has been providing shelter to unaccompanied minors for more than 20 years. Children who are victims of the federal zero tolerance policy arrive at our doors sad, scared, even traumatized. In this time of chaos in a child’s life, our shelters provide a stable, nurturing environment while we work to reunite families. We stand alongside families and children seeking safety in the U.S., and we fervently believe that families belong together.

We are prohibited from sharing the numbers of separated children in our care. For additional information regarding specifics of our work with unaccompanied minors, please contact:

Administration for Children and Families
Office of Public Affairs
(202) 401-9215
media@acf.hhs.gov

Learn More:

Heartland Alliance Responds to Senator Dick Durbin’s Letter About Our Shelters

July 17, 2018 – Recent allegations about our programs are deeply troubling as they do not reflect our values or the quality of care we strive to provide. We initiated an investigation immediately upon learning of these allegations over the weekend, and we support Senator Dick Durbin’s call for an investigation of our programs from the Office of Inspector General. If any investigation reveals that a staff member placed a child in danger or did not follow protocols, we will immediately remove them from their duties. We have augmented the staff capacity and oversight at our shelters while we await the outcome of any and all investigations, and all shelter staff are receiving additional mandatory training on trauma-informed care by the end of July.

Ensuring the safety and well-being of children is our top priority. Children who arrive alone at our shelters after being forcibly separated from their parents are scared and sad. Our childcare staff, clinicians, and social workers understand their trauma and are dedicated to supporting them during an incredibly difficult time. We have extensive policies, procedures, and standards of care that guide our approach to ensure the safety and well-being of all children in our care. We provide a structure of learning and play at our shelters, children are given age-appropriate chores, and we nurture all children in our care. We are proactive in preventing the spread of communicable illnesses among children in our residential shelters. And it is not our practice to ever use injections for behavior management.

Heartland Alliance is a 130-year-old human rights organization that has been providing shelter to unaccompanied minors for more than 20 years. We stand alongside children seeking safety in the U.S. and fervently believe that families belong together. We believe that people have the right to seek asylum in the United States and that they should not be criminalized for seeking safety here.

Important Perspective on Our Work with Migrant Children

July 16, 2018 – We are troubled to learn of the concerns about our programs as recent stories do not reflect our values or the quality of care we strive to provide. Heartland Alliance is a 130-year-old human rights organization that has been providing shelter to unaccompanied minors for more than 20 years. We stand alongside children and families seeking safety in the U.S. and we fervently believe that families belong together. The children who have come to our shelters after being forcibly separated from their parents are scared and sad. They have been through a heart wrenching experience with which our trained childcare staff, clinicians, and social workers deeply empathize. We have extensive policies, procedures, and standards of care that guide our trauma-informed approach to ensure the safety and well-being of all children in our care. While this does include daily routines and structure, age-appropriate chores, and practices to prevent the spread of communicable illnesses, we understand how these practices may be experienced by young children who are already suffering emotionally from being apart from those they love most. We take any concerns about our program extremely seriously and, as a matter of protocol, appropriately report, investigate, and address each matter that comes to our attention.

Read more:

 

Families Belong Together

Evelyn Diaz, President

Evelyn Diaz, President
Heartland Alliance

In the last week, Heartland Alliance has been highlighted in the media for the care and services we provide to unaccompanied minors in the Chicagoland region.

Heartland Alliance is a human rights and social justice organization that has been helping vulnerable populations in Chicago, across the region, and throughout the world for 130 years. We provide respectful services; work to secure access to justice; and shape policies that promote equity and opportunity for all—particularly for those who are most marginalized among us.

As you may know, for nearly three decades, Heartland Alliance has been providing care and shelter to children who cross our borders alone, seeking safety. We have a contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement and are licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services as a child welfare organization to provide a welcoming shelter, food and clothing, healthcare and education, counseling, and therapy for up to 512 children at nine shelters in the Chicagoland area.

I want you to know that we believe families should be together. Our goal today is as it has always been: to reunite children with a caregiver or sponsor—typically family—living here in the U.S. as quickly as possible.

In the last six weeks, this work has begun to include a number of children who have been separated from their families at the border as a result of the administration’s zero tolerance policy. Although Heartland Alliance has nothing to do with the decision to separate children from their parents, we are doing everything we can to keep children safe while they are entrusted in our care.

Children are scared when they arrive at our doors.  Our clinicians, teachers, and family reunification specialists are doing everything in their power to make a horrible situation less scary; to provide comfort and support to the children; and to reunite them with their families as quickly as possible. 

Heartland Alliance has always stood with vulnerable children and families who arrive at our borders. And we remain steadfast in fighting for freedom from violence, persecution, and human rights violations globally.

We have received many phone calls and emails from concerned citizens asking how they can help. We invite you to join us:

  • Volunteer to collect much-needed items for migrant children
  • Donate now to help increase access to mental health services for migrant children, accelerate family reunification efforts, and advocate for safety and justice.
  • Learn more about the journey of unaccompanied minors and Heartland Alliance’s work.
  • Shape the conversation and mobilize support for this important issue on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Write a card for a migrant child to show you care. You can mail cards to Heartland Alliance, 208 S. LaSalle, Chicago, IL 60604. 

Join us in keeping children safe

June 22, 2018 – Heartland Alliance has been highlighted in the media for the services we provide to unaccompanied minors in the Chicagoland region. 

See below for ways you can help and get involved.

For nearly three decades, Heartland Alliance has been providing shelter to children who cross our borders alone, seeking safety.  We provide a safe, healing environment for children as they work to reunite them with family members. 

In the last six weeks, this work has begun to include a small share of children who have been separated from their families at the border as a result of the administration’s Zero Tolerance policy.  Although Heartland Alliance has nothing to do with the decision to separate children from their parents, we are doing everything we can to keep children safe while they are entrusted in our care. 

As a human rights organization, this is what Heartland Alliance has always done for individuals who are most vulnerable—providing respectful services; working to secure access to justice; and shaping policies that promote equity and opportunity for all.  

  • Donate now to help increase mental health supports, accelerate family reunification efforts, and advocate for safety and justice.
  • Learn more about the journey of unaccompanied minors and Heartland Alliance’s work.
  • Shape the conversation and mobilize support for this important issue on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Write a card for a migrant child to show you care. You can mail cards to Heartland Alliance, 208 S. LaSalle, Chicago, IL 60604. 

Reunifying Children Quickly and Safely

June 21, 2018 – Heartland Alliance applauds the U.S. District Court’s order to reunite children with their families within 30 days, and 14 days for children under the age of five.  

The administration’s “zero tolerance” policy–which has separated thousands of children from their parents and significantly frustrated reunification efforts, and has detained tens of thousands of individuals seeking safety and asylum in our country–is abhorrent and violates the human rights principles that have defined what Heartland Alliance has worked toward for 130 years.

Read the fact sheet about our work
helping unaccompanied children (PDF)

We are already working to reunite children with their families as per the current ORR guidelines, and we will adjust immediately once any new guidance from the ORR is received. Our top priority continues to be keeping children safe while working as quickly as possible to coordinate the process of reuniting them with their families or sponsors here in the U.S. once that reunification decision is made by ORR.  

We will continue to champion the needs of children and their families – as we strongly believe families belong together. 

Children and families who arrive at our borders are seeking safety. They are fleeing violence and unrest in their home countries. Heartland Alliance stands with them. And we ask you to stand with us.

As a 130 year-old human rights organization, Heartland Alliance provides safety and services to those who are most vulnerable including refugees, asylees, immigrants, victims of trafficking and other vulnerable populations.

For nearly 30 years, we have been providing safe shelter and care for unaccompanied children who are seeking refuge from violence and persecution in their home countries—including children who have been recently separated from their families at the border.

We operate nine shelters in the Chicagoland area, and our first priority is the safety and welfare of the children in our care. We provide a stable, nurturing environment. Our staff speak the languages of the children in their care. They focus on the children’s well-being and help them to heal from trauma, and work to reunify the children with their families as soon as possible. Keeping the identities of children and details of their circumstances confidential is essential to these efforts.

Heartland Alliance believes that society is better for everyone when all of us can reach our full potential. We have always stood with vulnerable children and families who arrive at our borders. And we remain steadfast in fighting for freedom from violence, persecution and human rights violations globally.

For more information, please contact the Office of Refugee Resettlement ACF Office of Communications at 202.401.9215 or media@acf.hhs.gov.

Download the fact sheet: Unaccompanied Children (PDF)

Our Perspective: State of the Union

January 31, 2018

Equity and opportunity are essential to a society where everyone can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. That means supporting our Dreamers’ ability to thrive within a nation built upon justice and equality. It means coming together to support and heal those experiencing poverty, trauma, homelessness, substance abuse, injustice, violence or seeking economic opportunity. We must embrace the diversity of our nation and those who come to us seeking safety and stability and not build walls or create policies that marginalize the most vulnerable among us.

The President’s policies – as outlined in last night’s State of the Union address – work against the promise of prosperity, and our ability to achieve a “safe, strong and proud” Union. Today, over 43 million people in America live below the poverty line and millions more experience serious hardships. Globally, more than 65 million individuals and families have been displaced from their homes due to persecution and violence.

Heartland Alliance is grounded in our commitment to those that we serve and will work alongside them, our leadership in government, and our communities, to create a more just global society. We invite you to stand with Heartland Alliance as we vigorously work to advance human rights and create lasting change.


What You Can Do: