On March 1-3, 2023, the ABA Commission on Immigration and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), hosted the third Unaccompanied Children’s Service Provider Training in Houston. The theme for this year’s conference was “reconnect, restore, and inspire,” which is exactly what the 200 participants did over three days of speakers, panels, receptions, music, and community meals. Participants were grateful to connect in person with colleagues, both new and old. One attendee aptly described the excitement she felt “learning and connecting with others who are as interested and passionate about this work as I am.”
The conference kicked off with a moving tribute to Cindy Bernal, ProBAR’s Director of Shelter Services. Cindy immigrated from El Salvador and obtained legal residency with the help of attorneys from ProBAR. Upon graduating from college in the Rio Grande Valley, she began advocating for immigrant children at ProBAR where years later she now oversees a department of over 90 staff. In accepting the honor, Cindy powerfully urged advocates “to draw from our own experiences to serve with compassion and kindness. With servitude that moves mountains, with resiliency that is stronger than any challenge that comes our way. And that the frustrations of our work when the outcome is not what we hoped for only serve to make us even more determined.” She also urged attendees to reconnect and draw strength from one another while also making time for self-care, themes that resurfaced throughout the three-day event.
The training brought together social workers, child advocates, paralegals, legal service providers, academics, litigators, and policy advocates whose varying backgrounds and approaches enabled participants to consider issues from multiple perspectives. Attendees learned from expert panelists and from one another. During the panel presentations, speakers discussed developments in the law, highlighted innovative service models, shared practice tips, showcased new policy and litigation strategies, and celebrated hard fought victories achieved through coalition building. One attendee summed up the experience describing how powerful it was “to be learning from such fierce advocates.”