Through the Eyes of the Immigrant and the Case Worker

Immigration is a complicated and oftentimes painful process. For centuries, individuals, villages and ethnic groups have looked for new places to settle — sometimes with life and death urgency — for assuring a better life. Any change brings challenges. Even if you can re-settle into the best environment in the world, under the best economic conditions, you’re still forced to deal with nostalgia, acculturation and sometimes rejection.

What does it feel like to be an immigrant? Even with plenty of money in the bank, you’d still grieve leaving close friends and family behind. You’d miss the traditions of your home country (even if you didn’t really celebrate them back home). You’d miss your food, your music, and those familiar aromas and flavors. Even for well-educated and affluent immigrants, there is no way to avoid some degree of confusion and disorientation.

To be an immigrant is like standing in the middle of a busy highway. You know you need to move, but you do not know in which direction.

Imagine then how scary and paralyzing this experience is for the population of immigrants and refugees served by BCFS Health and Human Services — children and adolescents. These children have very limited education, grew up without one or both parents, usually in intensely violent surroundings, and have suffered hardships that forced them to grow up and leave innocence and childhood behind, way before their time.

At BCFS Health and Human Services, we have the opportunity to be a bright light in what is maybe the darkest moment of their lives. We are the friendly face or voice that welcomes them to a better life and ushers them into a hopeful future.

What does a BCFS case worker do? We educate them. We can give them information that can change their perspective about this country. We teach them about rights that they never had before. They learn about their educational possibilities. Through all this, they realize that they are still children and can enjoy this important time in their lives. Meanwhile we connect with their parents and caregivers to show them positive parenting. We are the channel to a significant improvement in their quality of life.

To provide adequate shelter to the minors in transit is absolutely critical. To help the children’s sponsors act in compliance with national regulations is an important task. To be patient and compassionate with those who cannot understand what they need to do, or do not have access to technology that can expedite the process of reunification, is a real act of love. To identify issues in the cases, to perform home studies in order to guarantee the well-being of the youngsters, and to follow up with the families after the release of the minors are all life-changing services.

Each and every child in our caseloads has value and importance, a good citizen in the making, a possibility of a better world for all of us.

When we do our job, when we accomplish our goals, when we close a case after proving that our families are self-sufficient, we are doing much more than it seems.

A parent that calls for information and directions is demonstrating trust and confidence in our capabilities, and trust is not easy to earn. A boy who shows you his school grades is honoring your job. A sponsor that blesses you when a child is released is not only showing gratitude, but creating an everlasting bond — even though in reality you’ll probably never cross paths again.

We have a work with a purpose. We are an important part of something meaningful and far bigger than us. After all, to be a Good Samaritan can be a good job — and I believe a BCFS caseworker has the best job imaginable.

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