Immigration & Child Welfare

The resources listed on this webpage are for informational purposes only and are not intended to provide legal advice.

Policies and Procedures

  • 11064.1: Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities
    This U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Directive establishes ICE policy and procedures to address the placement, monitoring, accommodation, and removal of certain alien parents. The Directive is particularly concerned with the placement, monitoring, accommodation, and removal of alien parents or legal guardians who are: 1) primary caretakers of minor children without regard to the dependent’s citizenship; 2) parent and legal guardians who have a direct interest in family court proceeding involving a minor or child welfare proceedings in the United States; and 3) parents or legal guardians whose minor children are U.S. citizens (USCs) or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) . This Directive is intended to complement the immigration enforcement priorities and prosecutorial discretion memoranda, as well as other related detention standards and policies that govern the intake, detention, and removal of alien parents. (Issued August 23, 2013)

Resources: Research, Reports, Articles

  • Forced from Home: The Lost Boys and Girls of Central America
    This Women’s Refugee Commission report explores the reasons for the unprecedented increase in the number of unaccompanied alien children migrating to the United States from the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. It discusses the U.S. response to meeting the protection needs of refuge-seeking children and provides recommendations. (October 2012)
  • Children of Immigrants Data Tool
    This database from The Urban Institute allows users to search for data relating to the demographics of immigrant children. (2012)
  • Shattered Families: The Perilous Intersection of Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System 
    This report from the Applied Research Center (ARC) offers unprecedented analysis of the problem, its underlying causes, local differences, and recommended solutions. It is illustrated with vivid graphics, and includes compelling stories and extensive interviews with detained and deported parents, child welfare workers, attorneys and foreign consultants. On the ARC website, you can access the full report, the Executive Summary in English and Spanish, and a press release on the significance of ARC’s findings in English and Spanish. You can also access an Informational Webinar in which ARC reviews the findings in “Shattered Families” and presents policy and practice recommendations for the Department of Homeland Security, various levels of legislature, state child welfare departments, immigration and juvenile dependency attorneys, and courts on how we can better protect families from separation and reunify families in a timely way. (November 2011)
  • Disappearing Parents: A Report on Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System 
    This report from the Southwest Institute for Research on Women and the Bacon Immigration Law and Policy Program is based on over a year of research, including over fifty surveys and twenty interviews with juvenile court judges, attorneys representing children and parents in juvenile court, and case workers in Child Protective Services. The report contains detailed recommendations for the Department of Homeland Security, state child welfare systems, and Congress. (May 2011)
  • Torn Apart by Immigration Enforcement: Parental Rights and Immigration Detention
    This report from the Women’s Refugee Commission discusses identified challenges to parental rights and family preservation that occur for undocumented parents at the time of apprehension, detention, and deportation. The report offers recommendations for addressing these challenges. Access the Executive Summary and the Full Report. (December 2010)
  • Maintaining Parental Rights During Immigration Enforcement Actions and Detention
    On November 3, 2010, the Women’s Refugee Commission, the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project and the Applied Research Center convened 25 experts to discuss the issue of maintaining parental rights during immigration enforcement actions and detention. This report provides an overview of the meeting and recommendations for next steps. (November 2010)
  • In the Child’s Best Interest? The Consequences of Losing a Lawful Immigrant Parent to Deportation 
    This resource was developed by International Human Rights Law Clinic, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; and, Immigration Law Clinic, University of California, Davis, School of Law. Through a multi-disciplinary analysis, this policy brief examines the experiences of U.S. citizen children impacted by the forced deportation of their lawful permanent resident (LPR) parents and proposes ways to reform U.S. law consistent with domestic and international standards aimed to improve the lives of children. This report includes independent analysis of U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data.  (March 2010)
  • Facing Our Future: Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement 
    This report published by The Urban Institute examines the consequences of parental arrest, detention, and deportation on 190 children in 85 families in six locations across the country. Building on the Urban Institute’s 2007 report, Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America’s Children, this study documents the effects on these children after their parents were arrested in worksite raids, raids on their homes, or operations by local police officers. The research explores the impact on children in the days and weeks after parental arrests, in the intermediate and long term while parents were detained or contested their deportation, and in some cases, after parents were deported. Following the Acknowledgements, Executive Summary, and Introduction, the report includes the following sections: The Separation of Parents and Children Following Immigration Enforcement; The Effects of Immigration Enforcement on Family Well-Being; Consequences for Children: Child Behaviors, Changes, and Adjustments; Community Responses to Raids and Other Arrests; and, Facing Our Future: Conclusions and Recommendations. (February 2010)
  • Children's Bureau Express (CBX): Spotlight on Cultural Competence
    The October 2009 issue of CBX puts a spotlight on cultural competence. Articles include: Cultural and Linguistic Competency in the Child Welfare System: State Strategies; Evidence-Based Practice in American Indian Communities; The Journey of Cultural Awareness; T&TA Network Resources on Cultural Competence; Resources for Working With Immigrant Youth and Families; Direct Service and Organizational Cultural Competence Strategies; and, Training in Cultural Competency and Domestic Violence. (October 2009)
  • I Came All This Way for Them: Refugee Parents in Their Own Words 
    From 2006 to 2008, BRYCS (Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services) staff interviewed a dozen refugee parents from nine different countries, asking them to reflect on their parenting experiences before and after coming to the United States. This article summarizes themes and common concerns from these “Parenting Conversations”, addressing topics such as discipline and respect, family roles and values, independence and interdependence, and balancing two cultures. (Fall 2009)
  • International Issues in Dependency Court Cases
    The February 2008 of the Judges' Page Newsletter from National CASA addresses the complex issues that face judges and other child welfare professionals dealing with international issues in dependency court cases. It includes several articles on issues facing immigrant families and children and child welfare systems.  (February 2008)
  • Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America's Children
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement has intensified immigration enforcement activities by conducting several large-scale worksite raids across the country. From an in-depth study of three communities—Greeley, CO, Grand Island, NE and New Bedford, MA—this report from the Urban Institute details the impact of these worksite raids on the well-being of children. The report provides detailed recommendations to a variety of stakeholders to help mitigate the harmful effects of worksite raids on children. (October 2007)
  • Migration: A Critical Issue for Child Welfare
    In July 2006 American Humane and Loyola University Chicago Graduate School of Social Work hosted a roundtable to discuss migration in the Americas and its impact on child well-being and child welfare policy, systems, and services. This report presents the results of the roundtable discussion and summarizes the emerging issues that participants identified as requiring attention by child welfare systems in order to facilitate positive child welfare outcomes of child safety, permanency of placements and relationships, and child and family well-being. Suggestions for further research and implications for policy and practice are also presented. (2006)
  • Enhancing State Child Welfare Services for Migrating Children
    A report on the roundtable discussion held in April 2005 at the 15th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), who have specialized in serving these children for over 25 years, convened this Roundtable to provide an opportunity for regional, state and other child welfare providers to share their experiences and expertise. In addition to discussing the issues and challenges most systems are experiencing in providing care to these children, participants shared promising practices and recommendations for the field. (2005)
  • The Future of Children: Children of Immigrant Families
    This issue of The Future of Children focuses on the growing number of immigrant families in this country, and the challenges faced by their children as the next generation of Americans. For the most part, children of immigrants benefit from having healthy, intact families, strong work ethic and aspirations, and a cohesive community of fellow immigrants to ease their transition. But they also often face many obstacles, including poverty, discrimination, limited language skills, and lack of access to quality health care and education resources. Even though most children of immigrants are born in this country, and therefore are entitled to services and benefits the same as every other U.S. citizen, they often are not able to take advantage of these supports. As a result, though children of immigrants may start out with good health and high educational aspirations, these strengths can dissipate by adolescence. At each stage of their development, further efforts are needed to ensure that children in immigrant families have access to the resources they need to help them stay on positive pathways to success. (Summer 2004)
  • Fact Sheet: Immigration and Child Welfare
    Casey Family Programs published this document which provides an overview of data related to immigrant demographics and immigrant families in child welfare, as well as child welfare practice and policy implications.

Resources: Practice Tools
For additional tools and resources, visit our
Multilingual Resources hot topic page.

  • Raising Children in a New Country: Supporting Early Learning and Healthy Development
    Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services (BRYCS) and the Office of Head Start's National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness (NCCLR) have partnered to create this illustrated handbook for newcomer families parenting young children. Building on the original BRYCS publication, "Raising Children in a New Country: An Illustrated Handbook," this new handbook addresses the following themes: Family Well-Being, Safety and Protection; Guidance and Discipline; Healthy Brain Development; Early Learning and School Readiness; and, Connecting to Early Care and Education. This handbook can now be downloaded for free in English. (2013)

  • BRYCS Guardianship Toolkit
    These resources from BRYCS (Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services) are for those assisting refugee families who are caring for non-biological children (such as grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, siblings, or friends). Overseas, these children are typically referred to as “separated children,” while in the U.S. Refugee Program, they are typically referred to as “attached refugee minors.” In the U.S. legal and child welfare fields, these caregivers are often referred to as “relative caregivers” or families with “kinship care” arrangements. The toolkit includes: Guardianship Fact Sheet for Staff Assisting Refugee Families; Legal Guardianship for Refugee Children Living in the U.S. with Relatives; List of Highlighted Resources on Guardianship; Searchable   Directory. The searchable directory provides basic information about procedures for establishing guardianship in each state.

  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Caseworkers’ Toolkit for Children in Federal Custody
    This toolkit was developed by the Children’s Services department of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB / MRS). These materials were primarily developed for foster care caseworkers assisting children in the federal custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Division of Unaccompanied Children’s Services (ORR/DUCS), to ensure that SIJS-eligible children receive the assistance and case monitoring they need during the SIJS application process. These documents can also help social service and legal practitioners working with other children who may be eligible for SIJS. (March 2012)
  • Niños: A Guide to Help You Protect Your US-Born Child in the Event You Are Detained or Deported 
    NIÑOS is a free do-it-yourself packet designed to protect US-born children of undocumented immigrants who may someday be detained or deported, and to increase family stability, promote mental health, and give the immigrant family an increased sense of security in an uncertain world. NIÑOS contains information and forms families will need in the event parents become detained or deported. (NIÑOS can be also be used in situations such as medical emergencies or other untimely events causing separations within the family.) This resource was prepared by J. Brent Helms for Legal Services Alabama. (December 2011)
  • Protecting Parental Rights: Safety Planning for Parents 
    While no one wants to think about the possibility of being taken into custody by immigration, undocumented immigrant parents should take steps to prepare for the possibility of separation from their children in order to increase the likelihood that they can reunify with their children if they are detained or deported. This resource from Women’s Refugee Commission helps undocumented immigrant parents take steps to prepare for possible separation. (November 2011)
    • A Social Worker's Tool Kit for Working With Immigrant Families – Healing the Damage: Trauma and Immigrant Families in the Child Welfare System 
      Written by the Migration and Child Welfare National Network, this tool kit provides public child welfare and community-based agencies working with immigrant families with guidelines for integrating child welfare practice -- from engagement to case closure -- with trauma-informed care and trauma-specific services. In addition, the tool kit describes strategies to build an organization’s capacity to better respond to the needs of immigrant families exposed to child maltreatment, domestic and community violence, and other traumatic stressors. It responds to frequently asked questions illustrated by case examples and provides website links and other resources. (September 2010)
    • A Social Worker's Tool Kit for Working With Immigrant Families -- A Child Welfare Flowchart 
      Written by the Migration and Child Welfare National Network, this 10-page tool kit illustrates how and when immigration issues may arise during the chronology of a child welfare case. The flowchart begins at the point of a child abuse report and continues through assessment, diversion or intervention, removal, dependency issues and permanency planning. At each stage of the flowchart, potential immigration issues are noted and explored. (August 2009)
    • A Social Worker's Tool Kit for Working With Immigrant Families -- Immigration Status and Relief Options 
      Written by the Migration and Child Welfare National Network, this 21-page tool kit provides public child welfare workers with a basic overview of the dynamics of the U.S. immigration system as it impacts their clients. This tool kit reviews basic immigration concepts and constructs. It includes practical appendices with website links, such as tips for accessing vital documents, facilitating communication between child welfare system and immigration legal counsel, and a summary of immigration relief options applicable to youths in dependency proceedings. (June 2009)
  • Interviewing Immigrant Children and Families for Suspected Child Maltreatment
    This article, by BRYCS (Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services) consultant Lisa A. Fontes, discusses ways to improve interviewing immigrant youth and their family members for whom English is not a first language. The article reviews culturally-important factors like the voice quality of the interviewer and interviewee, pace and time, and the interviewer’s demeanor. The article also briefly reviews trauma symptoms in children that may not stem from caretaker abuse. (Spring 2009)
  • Suggestions for Interviewing Refugee and Immigrant Children 
    This brief from BRYCS offers a list of suggestions on how to interview refugee and immigrant children in a culturally sensitive way. Interviewing recently-arrived refugee or immigrant children and families at school, social services office, health clinic, or early childhood program may require special sensitivity and preparation. Agencies that receive federal funds are required by law to provide services of an equal quality to people who have Limited English Proficiency (LEP). To provide equal quality services, it is vital to allow LEP children and families to use the language that they are most comfortable speaking. (Winter 2009)
  • Deportation Manual: A Practical Guide for Immigrant Advocates 
    This resource from the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice includes the following sections: Immigration Detention and Deportation; How to Protect Assets; Arrest and Detention; Searching for an Immigration Attorney; Getting Out of Detention; Tips for Detention and Deportation; and, an Appendix with various contacts and phone numbers. (2009)
  • Assessing the Needs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children and Families in Out-of-Home Care
    This practice guide for service providersby the New South Wales Department of Community Services is meant to increase awareness of issues surrounding immigrant and refugee children, youth and families. The practice guide includes sections on the impact of trauma on refugee families and addressing language barriers. While this guide was designed for workers in Australia, this resource is also useful for American service providers working with these vulnerable populations in the United States. (March 2008)
  • BRYCS Interviews with Refugee Parents
    From 2006 to 2008, BRYCS (Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services) staff interviewed a dozen refugee parents from nine different countries.  BRYCS asked them to reflect on their parenting experiences before and after coming to the United States.  They discuss subjects like discipline, respect, family roles and values, independence and interdependence, and the challenge of balancing two cultures. See the BRYCS Parenting Interviews to read about the experiences of refugee parents in their own words: Jarsso, an Oromo Ethiopian Father; Tou and Mee, Hmong Parents; Klee Thoo, a Burmese Karen Father; Anna, a Russian Mother; Mary, a Sudanese Mother; John and Ellen, a Liberian Family; Caridad and Arturo, a Cuban-Chilean Family; Aline, a Burundian Social Worker; Farah, an Iraqi Mother; Suzan, an Iraqi Mother; Dina, an Iraqi Mother; Toma, an Iraqi Father. The interviews are accompanied by discussion questions for refugee serving agencies. (2006-2008)
  • Raising Children in a New Country: An Illustrated Handbook
    This booklet by BRYCS (Building Refugee Youth and Children’s Services) was created as a tool for refugee and immigrant serving agencies, as they help newcomer parents adjust to the different laws, norms and practices around raising children in the United States. (2007)
  • Raising Children in a New Country: A Toolkit for Working with Newcomer Parents 
    This Toolkit was developed in response to requests from the field – from refugee parents learning to raise children in a very new context as well as from service providers working to meet the needs of these newcomers and their communities. It represents months of research and reflects broad input by both refugee and mainstream service providers as well as by the staff of Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services (BRYCS). (November 2005)
  • The Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) Manual 
    This resource from the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law Provides the information necessary to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a federal law that assists certain undocumented children in obtaining legal permanent residency. Persons under the jurisdiction of a juvenile court who are eligible for long term foster care due to drug abuse, abandonment or neglect may qualify for SIJS and based on that, apply for adjustment of status to a Lawful Permanent Resident. In California, non-parent child placement decisions are made in juvenile dependency and delinquency court and probate court. Typically SIJS is granted to children in juvenile dependency court who are placed in foster care. Children under the jurisdiction of the juvenile delinquency court may also be eligible for SIJS. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a way for a dependent of juvenile court to become a permanent resident of the United States. If the juvenile applies for this status and is successful, s/he may remain in the U.S., work legally, qualify for in-state tuition at college, and in five years apply for U.S. citizenship. However, if the application is denied, the child might be deported. (October 2004)
  • Nuestras Historias 
    Nuestras Historias is a collection of 10 stories in Spanish about parenting by Mexican-American immigrant mothers, published by Rise Magazine. Stories explore the challenges these mothers face maintaining safe and stable homes and supporting their children and families while living in a new culture. Stories were developed in a writing workshop at the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, in Brooklyn, New York. Rise Magazine is written by and for parents involved in the child welfare system. Its mission is to help parents advocate for themselves and their children.
  • Protecting Assets & Child Custody in the Face of Deportation: A Guide for Practitioners Assisting Immigrant Families 
    The Casey Foundation supported Appleseed in developing a manual that helps protect children and family assets when immigrants are deported. Nearly 5 million children are living in families at risk of separation due to increased immigration enforcement. When these working parents are deported, their U.S.-born children often remain here. The manual helps providers counsel their clients on issues such as establishing child custody, closing a bank account, and transferring assets into their children’s names. The Mexican government has translated the guide into Spanish and is distributing it through its network of consulates in the United States and Mexico.

Resources: From the States

  • Georgia: 
    Working with Immigrant Children and Families: A Practice Model 
    This training curriculum by the State of Georgia offers child welfare service providers with new practices for improving the welfare of newcomer children and their families.  The training aims to help service providers deliver culturally competent services, better recognize signs of maltreatment and human trafficking, utilize different resources in assisting immigrant children, and identify legal regulations and their impact on newcomer youth. This curriculum is the result of a collaboration between refugee resettlement agencies and child welfare officials at the Georgia State level and includes a Participant Guide as well as a Trainer’s Guide. (January 2009)
  • Illinois:
    • Department of Children and Family Services Policy Guide: Mexican Consulate Notification of Mexican or Mexican American Minors in the Custody/Guardianship of the Department 
      The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago requires that the Mexican Consulate be notified when Mexican or Mexican American children are in DCFS custody, providing for early identification of these minors (see below for full document).  This accompanying DCFS Policy Guide discusses procedures to facilitate early coordination of social and legal services needed to achieve permanency for minors in the least restrictive placement, along with support services needed for appropriate visitation and the maintenance of family ties and children's ethnic, cultural, and religious identities.  (May 2008)
  • New Mexico:
    Working with Undocumented and Mixed Status Immigrant Children and Families
    This bulletin jointly published by New Mexico CYFD, Corinne Wolfe Children’s Law Center, The University of New Mexico, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children , New Mexico Citizens Review Board, New Mexico Children’s Court Improvement Commission, and Advocacy Inc outlines best practices and describes the roles of caseworkers, judges, attorneys, court staff, parents, youth, foster parents and CASA volunteers. (2011)
  • New York:
    • New York State:
      Administrative Directive on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status 
      The purpose of this Administrative Directive (ADM) is to remind local departments of social services (LDSSs) and voluntary authorized agencies (VAs) that Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) eligibility must be assessed for youth in foster care who are neither U.S. citizens nor lawful permanent residents. If the youth is found to qualify for SIJS, this status should be pursued whenever appropriate. Since the application process for SIJS can be extremely lengthy, and must be completed before youth leave foster care, it is important to identify potentially eligible youth and refer them to an attorney with immigration expertise as soon as possible. It is especially important that older youth who qualify obtain this status prior to transitioning out of care. Through this ADM, the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) provides necessary information for child welfare agencies to move forward in identifying undocumented immigrant youth, informing them of SIJS, and referring them for assistance in applying for the status within the time frame needed to establish SIJS before discharge from foster care. (February 2011)
    • New York City:
      Immigration and Language Guidelines for Child Welfare Staff (2nd Edition)
      The purpose of this pamphlet from the New York City Administration for Children's Services is to provide staff with a brief overview of immigration and language issues for the purpose of maximizing child welfare services to meet the diverse needs of the city's immigrant communities. (February 2005)

Teleconferences, Webcasts, and Webinars

  • Child Abuse Issues with Refugee Populations
    • Part I: Recognizing Suspected Child Maltreatment in Culturally Diverse Refugee Families
    • Part II: Refugee Resettlement and Child Welfare: Working Together for Child Protection

These webinars, including audio recordings, PowerPoint presentations, and highlighted resources on the topics, are available on the BRYCS (Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services) website. (March 24, 2010)

 PowerPoint Presentations



Government websites

  • Office of Refugee Resettlement
    The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an Office of the Administration for Children & Families, provides people in need with critical resources to assist them in becoming integrated members of American society.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
    USCIS is the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States.
    • Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) Status:  This area of the USCIS website contains information and resources on helping foreign children in the U.S. who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected obtain green cards.

  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
    ICE is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and provides criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade, and immigration.
    • Online Detainee Locator System:  This webpage can be used to locate an adult detainee who is currently in ICE custody, or who was released from ICE custody for any reason within the last 60 days.

    • Enforcement and Removal Field Offices:  Family member and attorneys can use this listing to locate Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) field offices to obtain information on individuals detained at an ICE facility.

    • Detention Facility Locator: Users can locate an ICE detention facility searchable by region, by state and by facility name.

Additional websites

  • Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services
    BRYCS is a national technical assistance project working to broaden the scope of information and collaboration among service providers - in order to strengthen services to refugee youth, children and their families. The Publications section of its website contains several useful titles regarding foster care, family-centered, culturally relevant practice and permanency planning for refugee children.


Last updated 8/29/13