Commitment to Excellence in Social Services

Our commitment to excellence in social services comes from the fact that the CARECEN SF staff reflects the people we serve. Their stories are our stories. This fact makes it easier for us to connect and understand their needs and aspirations for self-determination. We are committed to respond and support our immigrant community through our Immigration Legal Program, Family Health Program, Health Promotion Program, Second Chance Youth Program and Tattoo Removal Clinic.

Here are some examples:

*pseudonyms have been used in order to protect the safety of our clients

Family Wellness Program


The Struggles of Reuniting a Family

There are little to no resources to help support immigrant families who are seeking to obtain custody of unaccompanied minors detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Office of Refuge Resettlement (ORR), the office responsible for the detention of children who arrive to the United States without a parent or guardian, has lengthily and complicated process to connect children with family members. A family usually receives a call from ORR requesting they fill out a 30-page document with their personal information, submit legal identification, and information about their employment status. This was the case with Luis* who came to CARECEN asking for support filling out the paperwork for his son, Daniel, who was in ORR custody. He was receiving calls from an ORR social worker requesting his email address to send him the 30-page document. Eager to reunite with his son and comply with ORR requirements the client contacted CARECEN’s case manager. He told his Family Wellness Program Case Manager he didn’t have an email address, a personal computer, nor a scanner to upload the completed documents. The ORR social worker also told him that he needed to submit the documents by the end of the day or he would lose custody of his son. This caused unnecessary distress, fear, and frustration for Luis, because ORR must follow a lengthily process in order to terminate parental rights, which cannot occur in one day. His case manager helped him set up an email address, link the email address to his mobile device, and print out the documents. As he began to thumb through the documents, asked many questions about the information requested: What is an A number? What does next of kin mean? What is a Notice of Appearance (NTA)? Luis clearly wanted to understand ORR procedures and requested that the case manager support him in completing the necessary documents.

It took two appointments to gather the necessary documentation. The case manager scanned the documents and helped him email the PDF file to the email address the ORR social worker had given him. A few days later the client called to request more help, the ORR requested he complete finger printing and he was having a difficult time locating the offices. The case manger met with him and accompanied him to the offices. As the days turned into weeks, Luis continued to receive calls from the ORR social worker requesting new information. Four weeks after ORR initiated contact, the phone calls stopped and the number Luis was given for the social worker was no longer receiving calls. Luis called his case manager and requested support in contacting ORR and speaking with his son. The case manager and Luis began contacting various 1-800 numbers that were listed on the ORR site and the paperwork Luis received after 3 hours, Luis and the case manger were finally able to locate someone who was able to speak to Luis about his son’s case. The ORR staff member told Luis that the social worker assigned to the case was no longer working for ORR and that a new social worker would be taking his case. The staff member gave Luis the new social workers number and Luis and his CARECEN case manager called her and left her a message. She retuned Luis’ call immediately and explained that Luis’ paperwork had not been processed and that he would have to wait until she processed the paperwork he submitted over a month ago. Luis had to wait another month until he received a call from ORR stating that his son would arrive at SFO in 2 days.

Overjoyed, Luis called his CARECEN case manager and asked her to accompany him to the airport. He expressed concern at meeting with ORR personnel on his own and stated that he would feel more comfortable having an advocate.
On the day of the reunion, Luis and his 12-year-old son Arturo arrived at CARECEN’s offices worried but with large smiles. Arturo stated that he was so excited to see his brother. When the case manager and the family arrived at the airport they began to look for Daniel. When they finally saw him in the distance, Arturo raced to his brother and embraced him. Luis followed and hugged his son for a few minutes. When they finished hugging both Daniel and Luis had tears in their eyes. Luis shook the hand of the ORR staff member and signed the necessary paperwork. On the drive back, Luis, Arturo and Daniel, spoke animatedly. When the case manager dropped the family off at their home, they all thanked her and smiled broadly.

Family Wellness Program


Jose’s Story

Immigrant families throughout San Francisco navigate the family law system in an effort to strengthen parental bonding, family stability, and exercise their rights. Many families have a difficult time navigating the system despite their tenacity. As a single father, Jose stood out among the mothers who sought out health care services for their children. Each time he engaged with an organization he was asked to prove that he had custody of his child. Frustrated, he came to CARECEN SF’s offices to find support in obtaining legal custody of his son. With a case manager from CARECEN SF’s Family Wellness Program he was able to create a plan of action to obtain custodial rights. The case manager made a referral to the San Francisco ACCESS Center, which provides family law legal information, to help with the complex nature of the case. His case manager also provided interpretation services because the ACCESS staff member who was available only spoke English. When he filed his case, he was asked to provide documentation that was unfamiliar to him. His case manager helped him determine how to obtain the necessary paperwork and worked closely with him throughout the court process. After six months, the judge granted Jose full custody. Brimming with joy, the proud father thanked the judge and case manager for supporting him. Jose’s experience demonstrates how the power of partnerships between determined community members and knowledgeable case managers can strengthen family wellness.

Second Chance Youth Program

Steven, Second Chance client

An Emerging Community Leader

Steven was referred to CARECEN SF’s Second Chance Youth Program for case management when he was 13 years-old. When our case manager, Victorino Cartagena first engaged with him, Steven seemed reserved and even reluctant. However, due to Victorino’s persistence, Steven started coming to CARECEN SF more often, feeling that the Second Chance staff really cared about him and reflected his own culture, language and experience. Victorino took Steven to the Hijos del Fuego youth drumming group, where for the first time in his life he picked up a drum. Steven enjoyed the powerful sound of the drums and started to attend regularly as well as making new friendships. He gradually committed more days of every week to drum and participated in two years of the SF Carnaval Parade with Fogo na Roupa. Steven enjoyed the family feel and respect that others showed him. During this time Steven successfully completed juvenile probation; getting high praise for his dedication and decision making from his public defender. Steven’s academics have gone up in High school and he also received multiple certificates of case management completion from CARECEN SF. This year Steven will take a leadership internship in Hijos del Fuego and continue to move toward graduation from high school. We are positive that Steven will reach all his goals as the healthy young person and leader in our community that he is.

Immigration Legal Program

Maria Mendez* was detained during a routine SFPD traffic stop in San Francisco, CA. Once SFPD dropped the charges, she was referred to ICE. Maria had recently given birth to a baby daughter and was still breastfeeding at the time of her arrest. Maria was separated from her 3 children and sent to a detention facility out of state. CARECEN SF was able to get her released from custody and later identified her eligibility for the U Visa. Under the U Visa program, CARECEN SF was able to attain legal status for Maria, her partner and 2 children. Now, the whole family is living lawfully in the United States.

Health Promotion Program

Mattie Tellez* is a single mother of a son who has special needs. She came to the U.S. from Michoacán, Mexico. Mattie first heard of CARECEN SF at a resource fair where she heard about an opportunity to train as a Promotora de Salud (community health worker) focusing on diabetes prevention. Mattie was especially interested in the training because she knew how diabetes had negatively affected those around her and she wanted to make sure her and her son would not have to suffer from this disease. Since the training, Mattie has gone on to become a leading Promotora de Salud with over ten years of experience educating her family and community on diabetes and obesity prevention, oral health, and the importance of eating healthy and being physically active. The tools and knowledge she has gained has helped ensure that her and her son are healthy and that her community has the information to make healthier choices about what they eat and how much they exercise.