Sam Witten Reflects on his Relationship with KIND

April 18, 2024

Sam Witten, Keeping Kids Safe Leadership Council Member and Longtime KIND Supporter, Reflects on his Relationship with KIND 

In February 2023, I joined the Keeping Kids Safe Campaign’s Leadership Council. With its vision of transforming the immigration system for vulnerable unaccompanied children, the Keeping Kids Safe Campaign is an important initiative that I am proud to be a part of. I am excited to see what we can achieve together to best support unaccompanied children. 

While I am excited about this new venture of the campaign, my association with KIND goes back to its creation. I first met KIND President Wendy Young in 2007 when she was on Senator Ted Kennedy’s staff on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. I had just become the Principal Deputy Secretary of State in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) after serving in the Legal Adviser’s Office for 20 years. Along with many others on the Hill and executive branch, Wendy and I worked to address the Iraqi refugee crisis.   

When Wendy left Capitol Hill to lead KIND in 2008, she quickly became one of the most effective NGO advocates I have ever met, acting with vision, intelligence, and passion. She stands out to me now, as she has all the years I have known her, as particularly thoughtful when dealing with the U.S. federal agencies, the U.S. Congress, other NGOs, and those in need. It is no accident that KIND has grown into a powerhouse under her leadership.  

After three years as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for PRM, I joined the international law firm Arnold & Porter in 2010. Soon after, I joined the KIND Advisory Board. I have watched KIND transition from a small NGO operating entirely in the United States to a respected multinational organization with offices and staff all over the United States, Mexico, Central America, the United Kingdom, and most recently in Continental Europe.   

Internationally, I have supported KIND’s expansion in Continental Europe. Wendy and I traveled together to Europe several times between 2016 and 2019, along with senior KIND staff and consultants, to explore how KIND might best help with the major flows of unaccompanied children into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa. We traveled to London, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Geneva, and used Arnold & Porter’s Brussels office for meetings with European officials and NGOs. We determined how we might partner with European NGOs or support European and international institutions. In 2022 attorneys in Arnold & Porter’s Brussels office, led by Charlotte Simphal, established KIND Europe. By the summer of 2024, KIND will have fourteen program staff members in Continental Europe and the United Kingdom.    

In December 2023, I joined KIND Vice President Jen Podkul and KIND Europe Senior Director Kirsty Thomson in Geneva at the UN’s Global Refugee Forum (GRF) organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The GRF was an opportunity for governments and other actors, including NGOs like KIND, to show their solidarity with countries hosting refugees and other displaced populations by pledging their support for policies and programs that advance refugee protection.  

In Geneva, we signed on to two important pledges reflecting KIND’s commitments to protecting children: the Community Legal Pledge and the Family Reunification Pledge.  

  • The Community Legal Pledge reflects KIND’s commitment to advance legal services for the vulnerable: “Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is proud to join the Multistakeholder Community Legal Pledge, which aims to unite the legal community around a shared goal of working with refugees and other forcibly displaced people to advance their access to rights, justice, and lasting solutions to their displacement.” 
  • The Family Reunification Pledge reflects KIND’s expertise in family issues: “Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is proud to join the Multistakeholder Family Reunification Pledge to support refugee family reunification and help one million refugees reunite with their families by 2030.” 

These pledges are an affirmation of KIND’s ongoing life-changing activities to help unaccompanied and separated children and its commitment to build on these activities in the future.   

I am deeply proud of my association with KIND and look forward to the growth of the Keeping Kids Safe Campaign and many more years of service to the organization.  


To learn more about KIND’s Keeping Kids Safe Campaign visit this link or email: