KIND celebrates 15 years of helping unaccompanied refugee and immigrant children

May 10, 2023

When KIND launched 15 years ago, between 6,000 and 8,000 unaccompanied children entered the United States annually seeking safety.

In 2022, more than 150,000 arrived. KIND has been at the forefront of ensuring protection and fairness for these children throughout, expanding and deepening our services to meet the extraordinarily growing need. During times of emergency, for example, in 2014, when children alone crossed into the United States in historic numbers, and the family separation crisis in 2018, and all the times between and since, KIND has immediately launched into action, providing desperately needed services and policy solutions.  

Never did we imagine in those first days, with a handful of staff sitting around a small table in a shared office space in downtown DC dreaming big dreams, that we would end up where we are today – a vital lifeline for thousands of children whose lives have been profoundly changed by the assistance they received from KIND. We have never ceased to be amazed by the resilience, determination, and ability to hope and dream displayed by our clients. They are the true heroes of KIND’s journey throughout these 15 years. 

Going Where the Children Are 

From a tiny staff with five offices across the country, we have grown to a staff of over 400 with 15 offices in the United States and offices and partners in Mexico, Central America, and Europe. We have been referred more than 29,000 children since our founding. We have grown our pro bono model to over 780 partners nationwide that have donated more than $750 million in legal services since 2008.  

Fueling this growth has been the growing needs of unaccompanied children. Not only has the number of children seeking safety in the United States increased significantly nearly every year since KIND opened its doors, but policies that impact them have changed regularly — some for the better, others for the worse. KIND has been at the table advocating with decision-makers throughout with a single-minded focus on maintaining and expanding vital protections for children alone. We share our unparalleled expertise widely, educating a variety of audiences about why unaccompanied children on the move are uniquely vulnerable and highlighting the resilience that empowered them to overcome immense challenges.   

Early on, we recognized that children’s needs were not only legal – we knew they also desperately needed social services to help them with their trauma, access to basic services, and integration. We built our social services team from 3 in 2016 to 58 positions today, providing referrals to mental health services, family counseling, food and housing assistance, school enrollment assistance, and skills training. 

KIND has provided legal and social services to more than 35,000 children from 81 countries since we opened our doors in 2008. 

As the dangers migrant children face at the U.S.-Mexico border became starkly apparent, KIND opened offices on both sides of the border to provide migrant children information about their legal rights. Our office in Tapachula, on Mexico’s southern border which opened in 2021, shares legal information with migrant children in shelters and offers psychosocial assistance. 

We brought our pro bono model of representation to the United Kingdom in 2015 to expand unaccompanied and separated children’s access to legal services. We later partnered with nonprofit legal organizations throughout Europe to respond to the growing numbers of unaccompanied and separated children seeking safety from war, political persecution, and other harm. When the conflict in Ukraine escalated in the winter of 2022, KIND sprang into action, sharing our expansive knowledge of the protection of unaccompanied children, including ways to identify and prevent human trafficking. 

Our success speaks to the strength of our vision and mission: creating a world in which children’s rights and well-being are protected as they migrate alone in search of safety.  

While so much has changed since we opened that small office in 2008, KIND’s commitment to child protection – the core of our work – has never wavered. The best interests of the children we serve are foremost in all that we do. This will remain our priority for the next 15 years – and beyond – as we strive to help children alone throughout their migration journey to ensure they receive the protection and care that all children need and deserve. 

Feature Resource

KIND Through the Years

KIND Through the Years: Celebrating 15 years of ensuring children’s rights and well-being are protected at every step of their migration journey. KIND was founded in October of 2008 by Microsoft and Co-Founder and Patron Angelina Jolie to ensure that no child appears in immigration court alone. Since then, KIND has created a global movement […]

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