Timeline: An emergency-intake site for migrant children is built in 24 hours

Here's how it came together in Long Beach and what has happened since for UCLA Health and its partners.

UCLA Health partnered with UC Irvine and Children’s Hospital of Orange County to coordinate and administer comprehensive health care for as many as 1,000 unaccompanied migrant children, beginning April 22, at an emergency-intake site established at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Albert Pujols signs an autograph for a child at the Long Beach Convention Center, June 2, 2021. (Photo by Josh Barber/Los Angeles Dodgers)
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Edwin Uceta plays tee-ball with a child at the Long Beach Convention Center, June 2, 2021. Albert Pujols, left, looks on. (Photo by Josh Barber/Los Angeles Dodgers)

More than a dozen such centers have been set up across the U.S. to support migrant children arriving in the country. Operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these temporary shelters provide food, clothing, education, recreation and medical care for thousands of minor children from Central American countries.

What follows is a timeline of events unfolding at the Long Beach site:

April 22: The site opens, after just 24 hours of prep time by UCLA Health workers who set up computer networks, brought in medical equipment, and put together an urgent care clinic, pop-up pediatric care center and an isolation tent for kids who test positive for COVID-19. “It was an amazing team effort,” says William Dunne, administrative director for emergency preparedness, security and safety at UCLA Health.

April 29: About 400 children — as young as 3 and up to 17 for girls and 12 for boys — arrive at the site during its first week of operation. Within 48 hours of arrival, each child undergoes a comprehensive check-up that includes a physical exam and medical history, and each receives a battery of basic childhood immunizations.

May 6: Procedures are streamlined as more children arrive. The children are grouped into cohorts to contain any COVID-19 outbreaks and to create cohesive groups. Each cohort eats, plays and learns together and sleeps in the same area. A daily schedule is in place with time for yoga and Zumba dancing, English classes, counseling and arts and crafts. Grammy award-winning artist Gabby Moreno stopped by for an in-person concert and sing-along.

May 13: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra visits the Long Beach site and its nearly 700 children. The week’s activities also included a concert performance by La Santa Cecilia, a Grammy-winning band that fuses Mexican music with American folk and rock. Meanwhile, reunifications are ongoing as HHS staff identify, locate and vet each child’s family members or other potential guardians.

May 20: More than 365 children from the Long Beach site have been reunited with family members. The children had a visit from the Long Beach Fire Department including their animated dog “Sparky” and a fire engine to learn about fire safety. More than 760 children have been housed at the shelter.

May 27: More than 580 migrant children have been reunited with family members. In addition to a daily roster of activities, children at the shelter have been treated to a variety of special guests. Fisher the Penguin from Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific visited this week, a group of therapy dogs stopped by and a mariachi band performed a concert.

June 3: It was time for Dodger baseball this week, as several players - including Albert Pujols, Julio Urias, Victor Gonzalez and Edwin Uceta - visited the Long Beach Convention Center to pass out team memorabilia (classic Dodger-blue caps) and play tee-ball with the kids. To date, more than 700 of the children cared for in Long Beach have been reunited with family members.

June 10: A mini-horse named Blue Moon and her human companion, Victoria, stopped by the convention center this week with the UCLA People-Animal Connection, which fosters healing and happiness through hands-on animal visits. Among the four-legged visitors were two additional mini-horses and a therapy dog. The week also featured a special Cultural Day, with celebrations and demonstrations provided by local consulates from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico.

June 17: It was boogie time at the Long Beach Convention Center, with a breakdancing performance on Wednesday followed by virtual dance lessons taught by the Laker Girls the next day. The week also featured a magic show and a fashion show. Children age 12 and older have begun receiving the COVID-19 vaccine onsite. More than 760 children temporarily housed at the shelter since its opening in April have been reunited with family members.

Learn more about the Humanitarian Care for Unaccompanied Children.

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