Fleeing for safety

Fearing for her life, Juanita fled Guatemala for asylum in the U.S. Despite a language barrier, Juanita and her foster parents discovered a common language. 

May 08, 2019

For Juanita, to be alive and well today is an incredible story of resilience.

At five-years-old, her father passed away. As a widow with few options to make a living in Guatemala, Juanita’s mother ventured into the drug business and quickly become a powerful, revered dealer.

Juanita and her brother’s childhood was filled with the anxiety that something terrible was bound to happen.

When she was 12, Juanita met Hugo, a club owner who was nearly twice her age. He began a manipulative relationship, causing Juanita to become pregnant. Facing continual abuse, Juanita and her son escaped and moved back with her mother.

Shortly after, Juanita’s brother was shot and killed. Reeling from this tragedy, her mom kicked Juanita and her other brother out of the home. On their own, the two siblings struggled to make ends meet.

Eventually, Juanita’s sister contacted them from the U.S. Juanita made the difficult decision to leave her son with Hugo, and seek safety in another country.

The journey from Guatemala was brutal – dangerous, hot, and miserable. Near the border, the siblings’ guide abandoned them in the desert.

When they were apprehended by immigration, Juanita and her brother were immediately separated. Juanita was placed in detention with other minors.

Eventually, she learned he gave up his guardianship rights, so she could enter the U.S., while he would be sent back to Guatemala. “It’s for your own good,” he said. And it was the last time Juanita saw him.

Unfortunately, Juanita’s sister was unable to help her, so she was placed in refugee foster care though Bethany. At first, she didn’t want to go, and remembers feeling scared and alone.

“They did not know any Spanish whatsoever and I did not know any English,” she said. Transitioning to a completely new country and culture was challenging.

Over time, Juanita realized how much her foster parents cared for her. She slowly began to trust them. And eventually, that trust turned into love.

“Now, when I think of family, the first thing that comes to mind is my foster family,” she said.

Her foster parents are honored that Juanita has become a part of their lives. “Anybody you love and have a strong connection with can be your family,” Juanita said.

Today, Juanita is finishing her college degree in social work, and plans to help others navigate their own difficult journeys.

*All names have been changed for privacy

Refugees resettling in the U.S. have experienced a difficult journey. When you become a foster parent, you'll help a refugee child feel safe, loved, and supported as they navigate life in a new place.

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