Brothers Bond With a Little Help From Coco the Emotional Support Dog

Brothers Samuel and Diego, 14 and 16 years old, came to the United States from Guatemala. While they were in the care of another shelter, they experienced two failed reunifications that left them both feeling hopeless and upset. They thought they were never going to be unified with a sponsor.

Meet the Casa Padre Emotional Support Dog Team

Nala Casa Padre Emotional Support Dog

At Casa Padre not all of the staff walk on two legs. Eight dogs make up the on-site Emotional Support Team. This program began with an idea from Jeissa Melendez. In addition to her work as a clinician at Southwest Key Programs, Jeissa also specializes in the human-animal bond and volunteers with her therapy dog, Nala. As she worked with youth throughout their reunification process, she saw an opportunity to combine her volunteer work with therapy dogs with her career as a clinician. With approval from Southwest Key leadership and Texas State Licensing, she brought her dog Nala, a Certified Therapy dog, to Casa Padre to begin providing support.

Camaraderie and Creativity Through Cooking

Cooking Class

Nothing brings people together like food and friendship. Southwest Key Programs partnered with Free Arts, a hands-on art programming provider in Phoenix, Arizona, to use the healing powers of the arts to inspire and comfort children in our care.

The Role Art Therapy Plays in Shelters

Immigrant Youth's Artwork

Through many different outlets – music, painting, drawing, acting, dancing and more – children in our care can express themselves, communicate traumatic memories in a safe manner and continue their healing process.