Barbara Garcia, Director of Health, made this public announcement today saying the city would provide services to the expected 500 unaccompanied immigrant minors.
SAN FRANCISCO (September 4, 2014)—Barbara Garcia, Director of Health, today highlighted San Francisco’s commitment to its role as a sanctuary city, ready to provide compassionate care for Central American refugee children who are finding their way to the city.
“Our mission is to protect and promote the health of San Franciscans and we are proud to provide the services these new San Franciscans need,” Garcia said.
The health department is joining with the Mayor’s Office, San Francisco Unified School District, Board of Supervisors and other city agencies and community organizations to provide a full spectrum of services to an expected influx of up to 500 Central American refugee children who may arrive in San Francisco this year.
“These unaccompanied children are some of the most vulnerable, and we will ensure they are treated with compassion and respect here in the City of St. Francis,” said Mayor Lee. “It is important that these kids know they are welcome here in San Francisco, and know that they should feel safe when they visit a public health clinic, go to school or seek out other City services.”
The Department of Health is caring for these children in primary care clinics, as well as in partnership with school clinics and community-based organizations. The health department, an experienced provider of culturally and linguistically appropriate care, will offer mental health services to these youth and is developing a template for home visits to be shared by multiple agencies to ensure consistency and timely identification of their needs.
On Tuesday the Health Commission underscored the department’s commitment, passing a resolution supporting the availability of health care services to meet the needs of this new population of San Franciscans.
“We want to affirm that our role is to ensure these children get the care they need,” said Commission President Dr. Edward A. Chow. “We welcome them with open arms.”
The health department will provide mental health training and support to community organizations that are working with these youth, as many have been through traumatic events. “We have developed a unified plan to help these children face this humanitarian crisis,” said Ken Epstein, the department’s Director of Children, Youth and Families Behavioral Health. “In this city we have lots of trauma experts to attend to the children’s needs as well as the needs of staff who are tending to them.”
In the first half of 2014, roughly 170 unaccompanied minors from Central America were placed with family members or sponsors that reside here in San Francisco. In total, the City expects to receive 300 to 500 to arrive by the end of the year. Some of these children have begun to attend school and visit the pediatrician.
“At San Francisco General Hospital, we care for these children and we have seen how resilient they are when they are given the support and intervention they need,” said pediatrician Clem Donahue, MD. “The stories of their journeys to the United States are harrowing. Some were exploited, some fled to avoid violence. All of them deserve a safe home, regular check-ups and a chance to go school and make friends.”
San Francisco has a long history of being a sanctuary city for refugees from Central America. The City already provides services in multiple languages, a complete public health network and a culturally competent school district, with specific programs for immigrant students. San Francisco also maintains a municipal ID program that allows residents, regardless of their immigration status, access to City programs and local services.
Additionally, the City has developed a resource guide so these children and their families know where to turn to get the help they need. It is available online and through 311.
Health Commission Resolution, 9/2/14.
City’s Resource Guide
Op-ed in San Francisco Chronicle by SFGH pediatricians Clem Donahue and Heyman Oo, 8/25/14.