First Foster Care Family for Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Approved for Diakon Pasos Program

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Photo caption – Diakon Adoption & Foster Care on June 20, World Refugee Day, announced it has approved its first trained, licensed foster care resource family for its Pasos Program, which connects unaccompanied immigrant children with loving homes. Pasos staff from left to right: Kimberly Lattisaw, program manager; Emily Wenger, intake specialist/case aide; Jessie Mott, quality assurance/protection from sexual abuse coordinator; Emily Ubiera, recruiter/licensor; Maribel Burgos, case manager; and Ada Rivera-Castillo, clinician.

On World Refugee Day, Diakon celebrates its role connecting children entering U.S without a parent or guardian with loving homes

HARRISBURG, PA (June 20, 2024) – Diakon Adoption & Foster Care today announced it has approved its first trained, licensed foster care resource family for its Pasos Program, the organization’s groundbreaking partnership with Global Refuge to connect unaccompanied immigrant children with loving homes.

Global Refuge, formerly Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, is a nonprofit serving newcomers to the United States who are seeking safety. Diakon is one of the first agencies in Pennsylvania to offer long-term foster care for children entering the United States unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian. 

The announcement arrives on World Refugee Day, an international day designated by the United Nations to celebrate the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to seek safety.

Diakon Adoption & Foster Care’s Pasos Program launched in 2023 to help the growing number of children who have fled to the United States without a parent accompanying them. The children, who are primarily male teens between the ages of 15-17 from Central America, are escaping gang violence, threats, trafficking, extortion, abuse, domestic violence and extreme poverty. Many seek reunification with family in the United States. Foster care offers a path toward reunification or another legal protective status.

“Pasos means ‘steps’ in Spanish and we see our role as helping young people step forward toward a safe, bright and successful future,” said Diakon Adoption & Foster Care Executive Director Alyssa Snyder. “Unaccompanied children arrive having lived through traumatic experiences in their country of origin. As they cope with all the uncertainties of being in a new country, without a parent or legal guardian, we surround them with caregivers and support so they can focus on healing and just being kids. With approval of our first Pasos Program foster care resource family, we can also now begin providing loving homes.”

Diakon provides unaccompanied children with comprehensive support through case management and therapeutic services and coordinates with community medical, dental, legal and recreational partners. The children, lawfully residing in the United States, attend school in their home communities and typically will stay with a foster care resource family 9-12 months while a more permanent placement is pursued. Diakon provides foster families with comprehensive training specifically to care for immigrant youth.

“Diakon is uniquely equipped to provide trauma-informed and culturally responsive specialized foster care building on its long history of high-quality services for at-risk youth,” Snyder said, “There is a great need for long-term foster care as unaccompanied children have limited support when they arrive. They have a difficult immigration journey and often face language, cultural, educational, legal and health-related barriers. Foster families are critical to providing unaccompanied children the stability, support and safety they need.”

Diakon is seeking resource families for its Pasos program in Adams, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton and York counties. For more information about Diakon Adoption & Foster Care and its Pasos Program, call (717) 845-9113 or visit



About Diakon

Tracing its roots to 1868, Diakon serves over 70,000 people of all faiths and ages in Pennsylvania and Maryland through adoption and foster care services, at-risk youth programs, mental health services, family preservation, affordable senior housing and community services for older adults. The nonprofit charitable organization’s services are provided by over 1,000 caring and skilled team members at over 30 community service centers and senior living communities. Additionally, Diakon administers the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN), which focuses on finding permanent adoptive homes for foster children. Diakon is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America through Lutheran Services in America, one of the largest nonprofit service networks in the United States. 

About Global Refuge

Global Refuge, formerly Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, is a nonprofit serving newcomers seeking safety, support and a share in the American dream. For 85 years, Global Refuge has welcomed those seeking refuge, upholding a legacy of compassion and grace for people in crisis. The organization walks alongside individuals, families and children as they begin new lives in the United States through its work in refugee resettlement, welcome and respite services for asylum seekers, economic empowerment and employment, and family unification for unaccompanied children. To date, Global Refuge has served over 750,000 people from around the globe.


Information provided to TVL bu
Jason Kirsch