Paola Padron is a Senior Social Services Coordinator in KIND’s Atlanta office and has been with KIND since August 2021. Paola supports unaccompanied children who are in government custody and is assigned to a local therapeutic shelter for children with needs that require specialized care.
I received a referral for two brothers from Guatemala, ages 10 and 13, who had been living in a government shelter in Texas for eight months. I met them after they were transferred to Atlanta, and it was no surprise to find them experiencing shelter fatigue. They were very mature for their age and acknowledged that some days were harder than others; they deeply wanted to be reunited with their relatives and were starting to get discouraged. The hardest part for them was seeing other children arrive at the shelter and be reunited with their families soon after. Unfortunately, the boys’ reunification process was taking a lot longer than anyone could have expected due to unforeseen circumstances.
While meeting with them I was able to get an idea of what brought them happiness. Although I could not make their reunification process go any faster, I wanted to at least focus on what makes them happy. The brothers shared that they love to draw and were introduced to Dragon Ball Z at the shelter in Texas. They are now Dragon Ball Z fanatics and began explaining all the characters to me. Their faces lit up as they talked about the show.
A few weeks later they came to our office to sign a retainer with our legal team. It was nice to get them out of the shelter, even for just a few hours. It was their first time in a sky rise building—the KIND office is on the seventh floor—and they kept looking out the windows staring at the city and cars driving past. They were fascinated by the security code to get into the bathroom, so much so that they memorized the code and kept closing the door just to be able to open it again with the code.
During this visit, I printed out Dragon Ball Z outlines for them to color. They asked me to print out more copies so they could take some to the shelter and share with the other kids. I thought it was super nice of them to think of the others. As they got busy coloring the outlines, I saw that they are incredibly talented. They said they hope to be able to draw without the outlines one day. I told them to keep practicing as they are already very talented. I joked that I can barely draw within the lines, so they are already better than me.
Watching them draw, they worked so well together. I could tell that the youngest looks up to his older brother as he would observe what his brother was doing and then do something similar, and frequently ask to use the same markers. The older brother was very patient.
These kiddos had not attended school prior to coming to the United States so they were struggling but determined to learn how to write. They told me that they learned how to write their names, so I encouraged them to sign their artwork. They did an amazing job, and I encouraged them to keep working hard in school. We gave them journals so that they could work on their writing, and I explained the benefits of journaling. We discussed healthy coping skills and did a breathing exercise together. Teaching these kiddos healthy coping skills is important to me because it is something that they can take with them even after leaving the shelter. I am a big believer in self-care and believe that you are never too young to start incorporating it into your life.
These two kids have recently reunited with their older brother in Illinois, and we are so happy for them to finally get to enjoy their childhood which I am sure will be filled with many Dragon Ball Z episodes and hopefully a lot of artwork!