Cross-Agency Partnerships Help Unaccompanied Minors in Montgomery County (VIDEO)
If there’s one thing that county and school officials learned about the issue of unaccompanied minors was the importance of cross-agency partnerships.
MCPS officials took to a board meeting on March 10 to report to members of the Montgomery County Board of Education about the work they have done internally and with other organizations throughout the county when it comes to handling unaccompanied minors enrollment in county schools.
A report presented at the meeting shared information about resources provided to international students- foreign students, and U.S. citizen students coming from foreign and other U.S. schools into the Montgomery County Public School System- the impact on county schools, and a discussion on the future needs to continue to address this situation.
“Too many of our students find the school experience to be overwhelming. … We know they come with academic challenges linked to a lower education background. They have families who are in need of their help just to survive in this high-cost living area, or they experience unbelievable challenges in reuniting with their families,” said Assistant Superintendent Chris Richardson.
The report also states that the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships (OCEP), Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and nonprofit partners are just some of the agencies working together. Nonprofits provide learning programs in 26 schools impacted by poverty and high percentages of ESOL students, including unaccompanied minors.
The board also watched a video from MCPS-TV of two unaccompanied minors who shared their personal stories going through the school system.
“As we moved to begin to look at the data of who the international students are and who are the unaccompanied minors, we need to understand that the story of these two young people is unfortunately not the story of every unaccompanied minor or international students that come to MCPS,” Richardson said.
According to this report, 144 unaccompanied youth were enrolled in county schools throughout the 2014-2015 school year. This county document from Dec. 4 showed 107 minors, particularly from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras fleeing violence, had enrolled in MCPS through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) process.
School officials said this number will likely be higher by the end of the year.
The report also states that federal law requires school districts to enroll students, and the districts are not allowed to inquire about immigration status as a condition for enrollment. It was also noted that not all unaccompanied minors come through ORR since families are not obligated to share ORR paperwork.
Data from the Montgomery County Division of School Counseling, Residency, and International Admissions (SCRIA) shows:
- A total of 3,028 international students- foreign students, and U.S. citizen students coming from foreign and other U.S. schools into Montgomery County Public School System- were enrolled in MCPS from July 1, 2014 to Jan. 31, but only 144 presented ORR paperwork,
- Approximately 33 percent of all international students enrolled are from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras,
- In 2014, MCPS enrolled 552 students from Central American. In 2015, this number is 998; an increase of almost 45 percent.
Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro also attended the meeting and said it’s really great to listen to everything that has been done.
“I thought that’s so important to make sure for us to be ready, and mostly because we had no idea of the scope of this issue would be. … Everybody really rallied around how can we create a work group… a strong collaboration,” Navarro said.