URBANA — Cunningham Children’s Home is exploring the possibility of providing temporary shelter and support to some of the growing numbers of unaccompanied minors entering the country and winding up in federal custody.
Taking in these children would very much fit in with the more-than-century-old faith-based agency’s mission to see every child thrive, according to Director of Advancement Ginger McKee.
Cunningham Children’s Home would be providing a fairly short stay for children — possibly a few weeks — after they’re detained at the border and serving as a bridge to their placement with sponsor families.
But during those weeks, the agency would put its experience to work offering kids who have been through a traumatic experience the nurturing, mental health services and many more supports they would need, according to McKee and agency CEO Marlin Livingston.
“I think everyone can appreciate the plight of an unaccompanied minor in this community,” Livingston said.
While he and other agency leaders want the community to know this possibility is being explored, there are many more questions than answers at this point, Livingston said.
A federal grant program has yet to be released, he said.
State and federal agencies would need to approve the population the agency could serve and the facilities that it would make available on its sprawling campus in Urbana.
And, independent of that, the agency itself would want to provide the same homey environment for these children as it has for the kids currently under its care, Livingston said.
Additionally, agency leaders are early in the process of exploring whether there would be community support for this program, an adequate human-service workforce to staff it and potential collaborations with health care, education and other support service providers, Livingston and McKee said.
It’s important to answer these questions now, however, because if and when the grant program is released, there may well be a short window to apply, Livingston said.
Due to its expansion and construction of new buildings in recent years, Cunningham Children’s Home does have available living space in the older cottages on its campus for these children arriving in the U.S. alone, Livingston said.
But the cottages would likely need some upgrades and improvements, he said.
Cunningham Children’s Home serves about 520 children in all with educational, residential, spiritual and community services. It’s affiliated with United Methodist Women.