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August 2012Vol. 13, No. 7Immigration and Child Welfare

The Applied Research Center (ARC) recently published a report on the obstacles that families encounter when they concurrently deal with immigration enforcement and the child welfare system. ARC's national investigation centered on the extent to which children living in foster care are prevented from reuniting with their parents who are detained or have been deported due to alleged immigration violations.

ARC used county-level survey data from child welfare caseworkers, attorneys, and judges from 19 jurisdictions in six States for computing the national estimates used in the report. The jurisdictions represented a mix of border and nonborder regions. ARC also examined foster care cases with deported or detained parents in 20 States, specifically analyzing various impacts of border county status, presence of aggressive immigration enforcement agreements, and the percentage of foreign-born individuals in each State.

Key findings from the report include the following:

  • Researchers conservatively estimate that at least 5,100 children currently in foster care have parents who have been either detained or deported.
  • In jurisdictions where local police aggressively participate in immigration enforcement, children of noncitizens are more likely to be separated from their parents and face bigger barriers to reunification.
  • Immigrant victims of domestic violence are especially at risk for losing their children.
  • The issue of children in foster care being separated from their detained or deported parents is a growing problem and is not confined to border States.

The report outlines immigration and child welfare system barriers to reunification among immigrant families. Additionally, it makes policy recommendations for State and Federal entities that might protect immigrant families from separation.

The executive summary and full report, Shattered Families: The Perilous Intersection of Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System, are available on the Applied Research Center website: