HCJFS helps reunite kids in Mexico with their mom

There’s a 15-year-old boy from Mexico now living on Cincinnati’s West Side who has fallen in love with Burger King and Starbucks. His sister, 13, is a huge fan of pizza.

The teens relocated here from Mexico last month with help from Hamilton County Job and Family Services, which tracked down their mother in Cincinnati, connected her with needed services and orchestrated the kids’ flight home.

With all the attention on the separation of families along our country’s border with Mexico, this story is about a family being united.  With help from our caseworkers, supervisors and an interpreter, these American kids left a Mexican shelter, boarded a plane and are now quickly assimilating into life in the United States.

Section Chief Alex Patsfall, caseworker Divine Kizer and manager Monika Brown.

The boy had lived in a shelter since October. He was taken there after the man the kids were living with, his sister’s father, was accused of abusing him. His sister was later removed, too. She had been living in a shelter since the winter.

They are both American citizens. They lived here until about 10 years ago, when they traveled to Mexico with their mother and the girl’s father, so he could be near his family. Their mother, an American citizen, later returned to the United States with her two younger children, leaving the older boy and girl with the girl’s father.

When the kids landed in a shelter, Mexican authorities contacted the International Social Service, which contacted Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which contacted Hamilton County. The mother had wanted to reunite with her children for some time, but she was unsuccessful in getting her kids out of Mexico. This time, our agency helped make it happen.

The teens have been back in Cincinnati about six weeks. They are getting help with their English this summer through Su Casa Hispanic Ministry.

“It was like my own children were about to come off that plane,” said Monika Brown, the supervisor on the case, who went to meet the kids as they got off the plane. “There was such anticipation for reuniting this family.”

Brown helped with the family because the caseworker, Divine Kizer, is relatively new. Section Chief Alex Patsfall was Brown’s supervisor when the case came in. Jennifer Adams, who works in Program QA, translated for everyone.

Brown was the first to see the kids get off the plane. The mom went to the airport but did not have clearance to go all the way to the gate. The kids screamed Brown’s name and waved. Then they took off running through the airport to find their mom.

Watching the reunification brought Brown nearly to tears. At one point, she said, Adams got so excited she started talking to the kids and forgot to tell Brown what they were saying.

HCJFS provided vouchers for the family to buy clothing and helped connect them with Oak Hills Local School District, where the teens can get some help learning more English. Their mother home-schools her younger children, but Kizer is hoping she will enroll the teens in public school where they will have peers to help them with the language and socialization. The mother has already bought devices with Spanish translation apps so the teens from Mexico can talk easily with their siblings, who don’t speak Spanish. Next step: finding a bigger place to live.

“This mother is really great,” Kizer said. “She’s very committed to the children. She is doing everything she can for these kids.”