Kids in Need of Defense (KIND): Helping Unaccompanied Children Around the World

Note from the CREDO team: This April, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is among three amazing groups that will receive a share of our monthly grant. Funding from the CREDO community will help KIND achieve its mission to protect unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children and ensure unaccompanied children on the move will have access to protection, due process, and critical social services.

Read this important blog post from KIND, then click here to visit to cast your vote to help determine how we distribute our monthly grant to this organization and our other amazing grantees this April.

Across the globe, the number of children migrating alone—due to war, poverty, gang violence, disease, climate change, and political upheaval—is rising. In the past five years, record numbers of unaccompanied children have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border. In 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended nearly 150,000 unaccompanied children at or near the United States border, a near 10-fold increase from the 16,067 children who arrived in 2011. Unaccompanied children confront a U.S. immigration system designed for adults, in a language they do not speak, and alone and without legal representation. That is where Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) steps in. KIND provides legal representation and social services to thousands of these children and engages in policy and advocacy work to make the U.S. child immigration system more child centered.

KIND envisions a world in which children’s rights and well-being are protected as they migrate alone in search of safety. KIND work is trauma-informed, child-centered, holistic, and grounded in five core areas: legal representation, assistance, and litigation; partnerships, capacity building, and technical assistance; psychosocial programs; advocacy; and communications.

KIND was established in 2008 by the Microsoft Corporation and Angelina Jolie to address the gap in legal services for unaccompanied minors. Since then, KIND has grown to become the leading international nonprofit devoted to the protection of unaccompanied and separated children, with over 400 staff across more than 15 offices in the United States, Mexico, and Europe, as well as programming in Central America. We bring an innovative and comprehensive approach to child protection, using our vast experience to advance policies and practices centered on children’s rights and our collective responsibility to protect them.

We provide legal representation to unaccompanied children in their deportation proceedings to ensure that they have an advocate for every step of their immigration journey. KIND created the largest pro bono network for unaccompanied children in the United States, including more than 750 law firms, corporations, law schools, and bar associations. Through these partnerships, we train lawyers to represent children. Legal representation for these kids is essential; immigration judges are 100 times more likely to grant legal relief to unaccompanied children with lawyers than to those without.[1]

Alejandra, a client at our Washington D.C. office, expressed her gratitude for KIND’s representation of her sibling and herself: “Our experience with KIND was wonderful! They listened to us, and most of all, gave us the assurance that everything was going to be ok […]. My lawyer, Lucero…has been our guardian angel. She helped us through the entire legal process, went with us to court, and has helped us with school.”

KIND’s social services team connects children with essential medical and mental health care, educational opportunities, crisis intervention, and therapeutic activities such as art and music, to help them heal from the trauma they have endured and ensure their safety and well-being.

KIND also works internationally to address root causes of migration and respond effectively to global emergencies. KIND’s Mexico-based offices and its programming in Central America works with local partners on the ground to address the root causes of migration, protect children during migration, and connect repatriated children to essential services in their countries of origin. In Europe, KIND works with partners in Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, and the United Kingdom to ensure access to high quality pro bono legal assistance for unaccompanied children, including the thousands of children who have been forced to flee from Ukraine.

On the policy and advocacy front, KIND’s legal and policy experts advocate to change law, policy, and practice to improve the protection of unaccompanied children in the United States, by educating policymakers, the media, and the broader public about the violence that is driving children out of their home countries and their need for protection.

Our record of success helping unaccompanied children speaks to our effectiveness as an organization. Harvin, another client from KIND’s D.C. office said:

I feel so lucky to have met [my KIND attorneys] and I’m so grateful to them. They are so dedicated, and I really appreciate everything they’ve done for me. Without them, I would have likely been deported back to Honduras.” In a thank you letter to KIND’s U.S.-Mexico border team, one family wrote, “I have no words to thank you all for everything you’ve done for us. God is so good, that he put in our path people who helped us without asking for money for their immense help. It’s a very nice foundation that helps people, no matter where we are from.

With record numbers of children migrating alone, KIND’s work is needed more than ever before. We are committed to protecting children wherever they go and will continue to grow as the needs of children increase. To do this, we need your help. To learn more about our work, please visit our website. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

[1] Congressional Research Service, Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview, at 17, Sept. 1, 2021.