As we close out our 15th anniversary year, we speak with one of our longtime staff members, Laurie Carafone, KIND’s current Vice President for Legal Programs, about her 12 years at KIND and how she has seen the organization grow.
Q: When and how did you begin working with KIND and what roles have you had at the organization?
Laurie: I started with KIND at the end of 2011 as Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney at KIND’s Boston Office. At that time, the Boston office was just one person. I worked out of a small immigration firm, Chin & Curtis, that generously let us use the space. I eventually became Supervising Attorney and the Boston office started expanding. The law firm of Nutter McClennen & Fish generously hosted our growing staff in their offices.
I worked in KIND’s Boston office until 2015, when I moved to KIND’s Washington D.C. headquarters office to take a role within legal programs management as Co-Director of Legal Services. From there and I moved into the position of Senior Director of Legal Services and then Vice President for Legal Programs, which is the role I’m in now.
Q: How have you seen KIND grow and evolve over your twelve years here?
Laurie: At the time that I started, KIND had fewer field office locations in the United States, and we were not serving as many detained unaccompanied children. That was a big shift for us to increase the number of field offices, the number of staff in those field offices, to grow our programs serving both detained and released unaccompanied children, and therefore the number of children that we can represent. We have continually strived to grow and serve more children.
Over the years that I’ve been here, we have done an excellent job with our services and I’m so proud to be a part of an organization that approaches assisting unaccompanied children in an interdisciplinary manner. Adding social services staff was a huge step. Initially, we received funding for three social services coordinators across the country. That was in September 2015. Since then, our social services staff has expanded to over 60 people, which is phenomenal. Adding social services has been a sea change in the way that we’re able to serve children, in a holistic and trauma-informed way.
Critically, we have been able to expand to meet children where they are. When I first started at KIND our work in Central America was a pilot project working with children who were returned, providing reintegration services in Guatemala. Today, we have more extensive programming in Central America and Mexico and Europe. This has allowed us to serve more vulnerable children at various points in their migration journey.
Q: How has the importance of and need for KIND changed over the past decade?
Laurie: Today, the number of unaccompanied children arriving to the United States has increased tenfold since when I started at KIND. We have been so impactful because we’ve been able to grow as the numbers of unaccompanied children arriving has grown. We have also expanded the locations where we operate. One of the things that I think has been really critical in our expansion is the foundational work that we did to show how we could be an excellent trainer and mentor of pro bono attorneys in those early years. It’s a very small world, news travels fast and a lot of the firms that we work with are firms that have offices throughout the country and even around the world. So that positioned us to have that undergirding of trust and support that then when we were launching new offices, we were known and had a great reputation.
Also, public attention and funder attention has grown, partly because there are more children sadly fleeing and we have had these inflection points of horror like family separation which in an unprecedented way brought to the fore the issue of unaccompanied and separated children and thus the importance of KIND’s work.
Q: Could you remark on the impact of KIND’s work?
Laurie: When I was in Boston and it was a small field office, we had a much smaller number of cases. But each one of those children’s lives were changed every time we were able to match them with counsel and provide training and mentoring to pro bono attorneys or provide direct services ourselves.
The depth and breadth of impact that we can have for unaccompanied children then versus now has changed dramatically. If you multiply one child’s case—and how much our services can change the course of a child’s life—by how many children we have served, it is clear that KIND has had an incredible impact.
We have also shared the benefit of the expertise that we have grown in the last 15 years in a way that is morally aligned with our desire to have maximum impact for kids. What I mean by that is we are not just taking the road of let’s just grow KIND. We have also very intentionally worked with existing nonprofit organizations that are already in communities and maybe have been there for a long time, but do not have the technical assistance and expertise and resources that they need to make a bigger impact. KIND has become much more focused on scaling our impact by providing training and technical assistance to a broader range of providers and stakeholders to have a multiplier effect. We have grown in a collaborative way that helps us collectively serve the maximum number of children with excellence. We have not only grown as an organization; KIND has truly helped change the landscape for unaccompanied children through its trainings, technical assistance, and partnerships. We have invested in that way and see ourselves as part of a global movement to ensure the safety of children on the move wherever they are.