KIND President Wendy Young on 15 Years of KIND

December 27, 2023

As we close out our 15th anniversary year, KIND President Wendy Young reflects on our journey serving unaccompanied children.  


Fifteen years. I remember vividly my first week on the job, a job I accepted after learning about the extraordinary vision that Brad Smith, Microsoft, and Angelina Jolie shared: no child should have to face immigration court alone. When our then small team of seven first came together working out of our office at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, we knew unaccompanied children needed trained attorneys to help them navigate the U.S. immigration system. We knew they needed support throughout their migration journey. We knew that we could not truly protect them if we did not also work to tackle the immigration policies that had failed them for far too long. We knew that these children deserved more.  

While our mission was clear, the path forward was daunting. We knew we could not do it alone. When the team asked where we should start, I recall telling them, “I guess we need to find some cases and some lawyers.” Looking at KIND today—with more than 70,000 children educated on their legal rights in the United States and Mexico; over 14,000 children who received legal representation in the United States in collaboration with our 800+ pro bono partners; and more than 3,000 children assisted with legal services support in Europe in collaboration with our global partners—I would say that strategy worked out. It is remarkable how far we have come since the first time our founding partners came together to reimagine how to protect unaccompanied children on the move.  

I remember one of our early cases from our first few months. Juliette, a Haitian toddler, found her way to the United States. Little did she know when she arrived that she would be required to appear in a courtroom before a judge who would decide her fate. Understandably, she could not begin to fathom what was at stake. To her, the judge’s gavel was a toy. She did not understand how to travel the daunting road ahead. But she was not alone. KIND’s work together with the dedication of our pro bono lawyers has meant that Juliette, and thousands of children like her, can thrive, leaving fear behind them and embracing hope ahead of them. 

There was a lot of hope during the year KIND was founded, 2008. It was the same year that the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) was enacted by Congress, codifying the laws that continue to guide KIND’s work today. That was also the last time that Congress passed any significant changes to our immigration laws. The TVPRA passed in the Senate 99-0. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t appreciate the Washington leaders in office at that time who had the foresight to see how essential it is to see past party lines and look out for children in search of safety. 

Today, KIND’s footprint looks quite different than it did back then. We have nearly 500 employees spread across 16 offices throughout the United States. We work in Mexico, Central America, and Europe. The more than 800 partners that have joined us since those earliest days have made KIND an international leader in protecting children, bringing our expertise to bear not just in legal representation, but in holistic psychosocial support, strategic partnerships, advocacy, and communications. Our approach is rooted in innovation, pragmatism, and good old-fashioned grit. And it has never been in higher demand. This year, here, in the United States, we expect well over 100,000 unaccompanied children from across the world to cross the U.S.-Mexico border seeking protection from violence, persecution, human trafficking, and environmental disasters. Around the globe, those same threats displace millions more.  

As we celebrate 15 years and look ahead, we rededicate ourselves to protecting unaccompanied children and the serious work that lies ahead. We do this work for kids who made their dangerous journey to safety alone in hopes of one day living a more secure future filled with promise. But while they may have crossed an international border alone, these children do not stand alone. KIND and our pro bono lawyer partners stand by their side. One young client from Guinea said, “I was really happy that I met a lawyer at KIND. From that day I started having hope because I actually had somebody who cared about me.” 

We can build a new future for kids. In a day and age in which the immigration debate is fraught with anger and misunderstanding, we can be bold enough to stand up for humanitarian protection—child protection—delivered through compassionate, yet orderly process grounded in the very principles that serve as the bedrock of our democracy. We can aspire to be a society that recognizes that children are children first, regardless of where they were born or where they find themselves.  

Unaccompanied children need us to make that aspiration a reality. One client of KIND, Harvin, traversed many miles across unforgiving rugged terrain, his dream of reaching America guiding his every step. He was sworn in as a U.S. citizen this year and now, just months before getting married, he dreams of becoming an immigration lawyer so he can help other young people.  

Whether in the halls of Congress, corporate boardrooms, or the immigration courts, we must remember that unaccompanied children like Harvin are vulnerable and have unique needs yet possess limitless potential. When we do that, children can thrive.  

As we close out our 15th year at KIND, we celebrate how far we’ve come and all those who have made KIND’s journey possible. We have accomplished remarkable things. We have helped thousands of children secure safety, making sure that kids like Juliette and Harvin found somebody in their corner at every step of the way.