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The Irvington Board of Trustees joins many of you in our disgust and contempt for the “zero tolerance” policy at the United States border with Mexico. The separation of children from their parents is abhorrent and runs counter to the very fabric of what makes America a beacon for justice and freedom to the world. The Board of Trustees expressed our outrage, frustration and feelings of hopelessness at this policy in an impromptu discussion at our regular board meeting last Monday night. What we did not know at the time was how close to home this national disgrace was.
As many of you have already heard from various media reports, social media or the governor of New York, Abbott House (“AH”) in Irvington is housing migrant children that have been separated from their families at the US-Mexican border. While this may have been surprising and of concern to many of you, the Village of Irvington and many residents have been aware that AH has been providing care for undocumented, unaccompanied minors almost continuously since 2013 through the Federal Unaccompanied Minors Program. Abbott House renamed it the Transitional Resources for Children (“TRC”) program. At a recent open house at AH, many members of the Board of Trustees and residents were able to learn about the program and their dedicated childcare providers.
Since 1963, AH has been a beacon of service in Irvington, providing children foundational support by providing foster care as well as specialized care for adults with developmental disabilities. They have always been committed to providing a safe and nurturing environment for those with complex needs entrusted in their care. Additionally, the Village and AH have always had a very special relationship, especially the Irvington Fire Department who often hosts their children for tours.
While Abbott House serves almost 2,500 children and families through all their programs, the TRC program funds care for up 51 at a time and have cared for over 600 children since 2013 through this program. They provide these children healthcare, mental healthcare, emotional support, education, a safe living environment, clothing, recreation and spiritual opportunities. Additionally, they provide the children with legal support as their cases are reviewed. Very importantly, AH also vets every family member or sponsor to ensure the children can safely be reunited. They work with the families to honor the family’s plans and preferences for their children. For example, if the parents have been returned to their home country, AH will work with the parents to reunite them in their country or to place the children with other family members in the United States. The unification process can take just a few days or may be longer, depending on the individual situation and the family’s preferences.
What you can do to help
The outpouring of support from Irvington residents has been heartwarming. You have provided AH with an over-abundance of gift items and staples and at the moment they do not need any more. Additionally, they have received an over-whelming influx of volunteer applications. AH has expressed to the Village their great appreciation for this support. It is important to remember that AH is a not-for-profit organization and they barely break even from the funding they receive. So, your monetary donations are important to allow AH to provide the additional resources a child may need in their care. You can donate online at www.abbotthouse.net or send them a check to the address on the website.
We think it is important to remember all 2,500 children and families that Abbott House supports each year. While the children who have been separated from their families at the border will hopefully be quickly reunited, there are many local children who will not be as fortunate. If there is a silver lining to all the sadness and hurt of recent days, it is the renewed focus on the more than half century of important work that AH has provided to the children of our community and beyond. We hope you will join us in pledging our continuing support to help AH for their next half century of service.
Brian C. Smith, Mayor
Connie Kehoe, Deputy Mayor
Mark Gilliland, Trustee
Larry Lonky, Trustee
Janice Silverberg, Trustee