Caminos® Program: Providing Safe, Supportive Spaces for Recently Migrated Youth

The Caminos® program provides safe, secure placement options for children who have recently migrated to the United States and are seeking opportunities for reunification with family, as well as the chance to pursue their education and legal immigration cases.

  • Short-Term Shelter Care
  • Long-Term Foster Care
  • Home Study/Post Release Services

According to the US Customs and Border Patrol, the agency encountered more than 152,000 unaccompanied minors at the southern US border in fiscal vear 2022 (FY2022), an all-time high. These children travel to the US, seeking a safer future, away from the violence, economic instability, environmental challenges, and other hardships they face in their home countries. Upon their arrival. there are few resources available that would give them the support and guidance they needed to reunite with family and integrate into American society. Everstand saw an opportunity to respond to the needs in the communities that we serve – places rich with diversity supported by immigrant and recently migrated populations- and the Caminos® Program was born.

“I am thrilled that as an organization, we stepped into that space to provide those services. And [we] did it not knowing how much of a need would come over the decade. We have now been serving the population: there was a tremendous need in 2014 and that need has only multiplied over the past 9 or 10 years” said Kelly Berger the Executive Director of Caminos® Programs.

Unfortunately, the need for such a program continues to grow as children flee their countries, driven by fear and the inability to feel safe.

The Caminos® Program provides short-term shelter care, long-term foster care, and home study/post-release services, designed to facilitate safe, secure placement options for children who have recently migrated to the United States and are seeking opportunities for reunification with family, as well as the chance to pursue their education and legal immigration cases. One of the most important aspects of the program is consistency and the relationship and trust that Caminos® Program staff can develop with the children in the program’s care.

Beyond providing these children with a place to live, the Caminos® Program is designed to ensure that recently migrated youth can acclimate to the cultural differences of the United States. “I think the greatest need is really acclimating them into society in the United States. I think many times, cultural differences would entail language barriers, how we celebrate holidays, our verbal and nonverbal gestures, and communication skills. I think, while respecting where these youth come from it’s also very important to teach them what could be respectful or disrespectful in the United States, said Jordan Jones, Program Director for Caminos West (Pennsylvania and West Virginia).

As Jordan recounted, much of the program staff are either immigrants or first-generation Americans themselves, so they are all extremely committed to the mission. As a child, Yefri Moya Gamez, a Case Aide on the Case Management team for the Everstand Baltimore Shelter program, immigrated to the US alone. “When I first applied for this [role with Everstand], I had already been through what the kids are going through right now. So, I’m driven just to try to help and share my experience with the youth. I explain to them if they stay focused in school and you learn English, they will do something here and have more opportunities here than back in our countries. So that motivated me to work here” explained Yefri.

With everything that the Caminos® Program does, it is designed to ensure that these children do not feel alone “It’s a care plan to help them. It’s not like we’re just getting them in and we’re just reuniting them but they have a plan, not just for reunification, but we’re setting them up for success – whether it is with the sponsor, making sure that the home is safe, making sure that the home is appropriate, or making sure that they have access to transportation and school. We’re not just shell-shocking them but taking them along the journey. They’re never blindsided; we don’t keep anything from them, but we very therapeuticallv aproach them in their situation.” said Sharnett Kelly, Program Director, Caminos® (Maryland).

The Caminos® Program also offers unique services to the children it serves “We also have two therapists in-house, which is my first experience working in a program where we actually provide [therapy] to our clients in the community, which is amazing. These kids get therapy once a week-in their house or at Starbucks or on a basketball court – just to process the trauma and the violence that made them leave their countries. It’s called peri-migration trauma.” explained Michael Lynch, the Assistant Program Director for Caminos® Home Study/Post-Release Services.

Ultimately, the Caminos® Program is not just about providing recently migrated youth with a place to stay but placing them in a supportive, compassionate environment that can enable them to thrive despite the trauma and hardships they have faced. Everstand scales this work through the Caminos Nacional program, which utilizes the skills developed by Everstand in delivering the program and extends its reach by providing guidance, consultation, and grant management to accredited partner organizations so that they may also offer the Caminos service to these at-risk children.

“I think that a huge goal, for me, would be to establish ourselves as a stronger federal partner outside of just the Subgrantee relationship. I think we have the capacity to provide technical assistance at a national level on standards for training in this type of programming, especially in some of the areas that we already operate in, and balancing state licensing regulations. So, I think that there’s an opportunity to create an Everstand Caminos® online resource center or technical assistance platform that could be branded for Caminos® and used outside of our network to further increase our impact” concluded Emily Claure, the Program Director for Caminos® Nacional.

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Ruben H. – A Life Reborn Through Belief


Hanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing sports – markers of typical teenage life – were things Ruben H. could only dream of in Honduras.

“It’s hard to make people understand what it’s like in Honduras, but I’m OK with telling it,” Ruben says. “I want to help people understand why I left.”

A Risk Worth Taking

Ruben escaped violent cartel drug trade, human exploitation and ransom kidnappings by walking from his village of Dolores in the Honduran state of Copán. He was just 14.

“Tell the truth and you’re in trouble,” Ruben says. “Because I saw people stealing things, other people wanted to kill me.”

Walking from Honduras, through Guatemala and into Mexico – a grueling trek of 800 miles by road or longer if by trail or field – Ruben and other migrants boarded the Ruta Golfo, a freight train running along Mexico’s Gulf Coast.

Filled with migrants sitting in cargo beds or atop boxcars with no protection from the elements, the trains are rife with criminals seeking victims for kidnapping ransoms.

“One night I huddled for warmth with a stranger so I didn’t die from the cold,” Ruben says. “If I was crying or feeling sad, I asked God to take care of me.”

On August 1, 2012, wearing nothing but the clothes he traveled over 1,000 miles in, Ruben waded across the Rio Grande River into the United States.

Touring America

Almost immediately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took Ruben into custody, kicking off a 26-month, five-state tour of residential foster care facilities. In October 2014, Ruben entered Caminos, Everstand’s program for recently migrated youth. Titled to honor the Spanish translation for “journey,” Caminos offered short-term shelter, medical care and case management support while youth awaited reunification with family or a sponsor.

Everstand’s challenge initially was paperwork – without citizenship papers or a birth certificate, Ruben could not apply for a visa – and because he wasn’t 18, he could not stay in the United States. Viviana Camacho, Ruben’s Everstand case manager, called the Honduran State Department several times a day for two weeks to unravel Ruben’s riddle.

Camacho had to get creative, too. “We drew a map, discovered Ruben’s hometown and ran an announcement on a local Honduran radio station,” Camacho says. “Someone heard it and told his mother. That was the break we needed.”

“That was maybe the best day of my life,” Ruben says of hearing his mother’s voice for the first time in three years. “My mother was so happy to hear me.”

Finally, Some Grace

Armed with his birth certificate and with help from a DC law firm, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR), Everstand helped Ruben qualify as a Child In Need of Assistance (CINA). That meant Ruben could stay in the United States instead of banishment back to Honduras when he turned 18.

Ruben embraced American culture. He played striker on his Baltimore County high school soccer team. He has made friends while taking hold of American culture. He learned to text in English, and has written close to 70 songs in Spanish.

Ruben believes his life has purpose thanks to Everstand. “In America, I’m not facing the danger I feared in Honduras,” Ruben says. “I’ve already done the hardest part. I’m at Everstand because I believe God wanted me to make a good decision.”

This story originally appeared in our 2015 Annual Report.  Click here to read all past annual reports.


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