Agencies field calls asking to foster immigrant children

Since Monday, Catholic Charities of Wichita has fielded a handful of calls from people asking…

Since Monday, Catholic Charities of Wichita has fielded a handful of calls from people asking if they can foster — or even adopt — children who have been separated from their families at the border.

The calls come from people who have seen the news and want to help, said David Osio, director of immigration services at Catholic Charities.

“I don’t know what to tell them,” Osio said. “Naturally as a human being, you want to do something. You feel that you’re so far away from where the action is taking place, what can you do, how can I stop this?”

Catholic Charities in Wichita does not offer foster or adoption services, so Osio has been referring such calls to Saint Francis Community Services.

Saint Francis, however, does not work with the children who are being detained at the border, said Angela Smith, corporate director of international ministries at Saint Francis. They have also received some calls and are telling people that they do need more foster families, but for children already in Kansas.

If people who want to help the children at the border end up fostering Kansas children, “We would be thrilled,” Smith said.

Advocates have pointed to other ways to help immigrant families, including calling elected officials or donating money to groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.

The phone calls to Catholic Charities and Saint Francis came as many urged President Donald Trump and Congress to end the separation of children and families at the border.

Wednesday afternoon, Trump signed an executive order to keep parents and kids together.

Separations had risen sharply as the Trump administration implemented a “zero-tolerance policy” for those entering the country illegally. More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the border since May, NPR reported.

Trump’s executive order directs various agencies to find places to house families together. Talking Points Memo reports that the order does not require the government to reunite the children already separated with their parents. It also does not set a limit on how long a family with children can be detained.

Some of the confusion over whether Catholic Charities in Wichita can help with fostering immigrant children may be because other Catholic Charities agencies are housing some of these children. One of those is Catholic Charities Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Catholic Charities and multiple U.S. Catholic bishops have criticized the Trump administration’s immigration policies, with Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger even suggesting canonical penalties for Catholics involved in the separation of children and families. Weisenburger was formerly the bishop of Salina in Kansas.

Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita also condemned the separation of children and families, saying, “What is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border is wrong, immoral and even cruel. … Using children as a deterrent and separating even small children and babies from their parents, causing untold and unnecessary trauma, is not what our country is about.”

Saint Francis is associated with the Episcopal Church, which has also spoken out against the policy of separating children and families.

Dozens of other religious leaders — including mainline Protestants, evangelicals, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and more — have done likewise.

Katherine Burgess: 316-268-6400, @kathsburgess