A U.S. military service member hold the hands of an Afghan girl at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico, on November 4, 2021.

1,450 Afghan kids were evacuated to the US without their parents. Some are 'never going to be reunited with family'

Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT) December 27, 2021

(CNN)An 8-year-old sobs every night after her aunt puts her to bed.

A 17-year-old wakes up clutching his pillow and calling out his little brother's name.
And hundreds of children who remain in US government custody keep asking questions no one knows how to answer.
They're among the roughly 1,450 Afghan children who've been evacuated to the United States without their parents since August.
Months after they arrived, it's unclear when, how -- or even if -- some of their families will be able to reunite.
The large number, first reported by Reuters and updated in recent figures CNN obtained from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, reveals a devastating reality of the evacuations and their aftermath.
"It's shocking...the idea that there are over 1,000 kids without their family right now, and that they're potentially feeling alone and feeling scared," says Dr. Sabrina Perrino, an Afghan American pediatrician in California who is hoping to become a foster parent to help.
Many of the children tried to flee Afghanistan with their families but got separated in the chaos, advocates say. Some lost touch with their parents during the bombing at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport. And some of their parents didn't survive the terror attack.
Officials say the vast majority of the 1,450 children who were brought to the United States without their parents were quickly released to live with sponsors -- including other family members they fled with or relatives who were already living in the United States. Some were reunited with family via an expedited screening process the Biden administration created for the Afghan children.
But about 250 of the children remain in US government custody, according to statistics the Office of Refugee Resettlement recently provided to CNN. And most of those children, advocates say, have no family members to reunite with in the United States.
Families and advocates who spoke with CNN said the children, already traumatized by what they went through in Afghanistan, now are living in limbo and desperate for answers about what's next.

Video calls with their parents are a lifeline

Two teenage boys sit on a sofa in a living room in Northern Virginia, looking lost.
Ramin, 17, and Emal, 16, weren't supposed to come to the United States without their parents.
The close friends, who CNN is only identifying by their first names to protect their families' safety, were neighbors in Kabul. Together, they tried to flee the country with their families in August. But they got separated in the airport attack. Only the boys and an uncle made it out. Their parents and siblings remained behind.
When Ramin got to the United States in September, he was frantic, says Wida Amir, a board member of the Afghan-American Foundation who met him when she was helping translate for evacuees who'd recently arrived.
"He was like, 'Take me back -- send me back,'" Amir recalls.
Fear for his parents' and siblings' safety overwhelmed Ramin. Back in Kabul, he'd been so close with his 18-month-old little brother -- they'd been spending almost 24 hours a day together -- he couldn't imagine living apart.
One night, at the Virginia shelter where he and Emal were taken after their arrival, Ramin woke up clutching his pillow like a baby and calling his brother's name.
Emal, 16, says he wishes every day for a chance to reunite with his parents.
After spending more than a month at the shelter, the boys are now living with Emal's uncle and his family, who came to the US nearly five years ago on a special immigrant visa after working with USAID in Afghanistan.
The teens have started attending high school and say they're trying to focus on building a new life in the United States. They're grateful for the chance to live in safety. But adjusting has been hard, knowing their families in Afghanistan are still in danger.