O’Malley-Brown Administration Highlights New Community Resources for Central American Children Fleeing Violence
HYATTSVILLE, Maryland. – Martialing input from hundreds of citizens, community leaders, and service providers across Maryland, officials from the O’Malley-Brown Administration today announced three new community resources for Maryland families sponsoring unaccompanied Central American children who are seeking refuge during a press conference at the Hyattsville Public Library.
“We are a generous and resourceful people,” said Governor O’Malley. “Our response has been driven by the spirit and creativity of Marylanders who honor our state’s tradition of welcoming people of all backgrounds and lending a hand to some of our most vulnerable neighbors.”
In 2014, more than 2,800 children fleeing pervasive lawlessness, brutality, and violence in their home countries have been placed with sponsor families by the federal government and await legal proceedings. In many cases, these children face lingering trauma, an ongoing need for basic services like food and healthcare, and the prospect of living somewhere with a limited understanding of available resources.
In response, individuals and organizations have come forward with offers of support, allowing the State of Maryland to aggregate more than 1,300 organizations available to meet high-priority needs including clothing, food, legal assistance, physical and mental healthcare, and transportation services. Those resources are now quickly available three ways: online, on the phone and through a printable reference guide.
First, is “Buscando,” a website that allows users to find specific resources in their area and gives service organizations an effective way to offer assistance. Found at www.buscandomaryland.com, the purpose-built website was create by Code for Progress, HearMeCode, and the TechLadyHackathon, organizations of technologists that held a series of volunteer sessions to build the site in response to Gov. O’Malley’s call to live up to Maryland’s history and values as a place of refuge to all.
“Buscando, Spanish for searching, was built by women who are involved in technology because they know it can strengthen our communities,” said Aliya Rahman, Program Director at Code for Progress. “It has a powerful yet easy-to-use search function that provides ready access to the resources that are most critical for children who have been placed in our communities,”
Second, through a partnership with the 2-1-1 Maryland, Inc., those caring for these vulnerable children can also connect with help by dialing 2-1-1. Call Specialists for 2-1-1 Maryland, Inc., are able to assist callers in both English and Spanish, drawing upon significant experience in connecting Marylanders to services in their communities.
“2-1-1 Maryland complements the online resource, as we can help walk callers through the website and provide immediate assistance to those searching for assistance,” said Jim Macgill, Executive Director for the United Way’s 2-1-1 Maryland. “2-1-1 Maryland has always been committed to providing our state’s population with information on health and human services, and we are pleased to be joining thousands of Marylanders in lending our expertise to meet the needs of children seeking refuge and their families.”
“These children, and the families that are opening their hearts and their homes to help them, will now be able to find many of the resources they need. Our next challenge is to spread the word throughout the state that something as daunting as connecting with competent pro-bono legal services is just a few seconds away,” said Maria Martinez, Chair of the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs.
“From the beginning, leaders from a multitude of faiths in our state opened their arms to welcome any children who were placed in our communities, recognizing that we are all accountable for how we treat the most vulnerable among us,” said Rabbi Jon Roos from Temple Sinai. “The continued progress of this partnership, as represented through the launch of these resources, represents a continuation of this effort to live out our faith traditions by embracing strangers with a spirit of compassion and generosity.”
Third, we developed a printed Community Resource Guide, with production coordinated by state of Maryland, provides information about each of these resources as well as contact information for major service providers across the state. This guide will be distributed by local agencies that help reunify children with their families, and copies will be updated and available for download from www.dhr.maryland.gov.