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June 2013Vol. 14, No. 5Working With Undocumented, Mixed-Status Children

According to the Urban Institute, almost one-fourth of all children in the United States are immigrants or U.S.-born children of immigrants. These immigrant households represent a large and growing section of the domestic population and are often composed of mixed-status families where one or both parents are undocumented immigrants and one or more children are legal U.S. citizens. As this segment of the populace increases, so do the implications for child welfare. A recent practice bulletin examines the difficulties immigrant children and families face when they come to the attention of the child welfare system, the unique challenges child welfare professionals must consider in service delivery, and the best practices for serving the immigrant population.

A study from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being revealed that nearly 9 percent of all children served by the child welfare system have immigrant parents, and of these children, most are U.S.-born citizens. The majority of the bulletin is dedicated to defining what best practice should be and provides recommendations, including, but not limited to:

  • Make sure that child welfare staff receive cultural sensitivity training and are educated about the various immigration relief programs and other immigration issues that may arise in a case
  • Provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services to immigrant children and families, have interpreters readily available, and never use children as interpreters for their parents
  • Know the services and rights afforded to immigrant children and families

In addition, the bulletin outlines what professionals and advocates need to know when working with these families, and it defines the roles and responsibilities of each participant involved in the child welfare case, from the child/youth and his or her parent(s) or foster parent(s) to the caseworker, attorney, and judge. The bulletin is one part of a series of publications intended to promote the safety, permanency, and well-being of children in the State's care in New Mexico.

Working With Undocumented and Mixed Status Immigrant Children and Families, collaboratively published by the Corinne Wolfe Children's Law Center at the University of New Mexico School of Law, CYFD, the New Mexico Children's Court Improvement Commission, the New Mexico Citizens Review Board, the New Mexico CASA Network, and Advocacy Inc., is available on the Corinne Wolfe Children's Law Center website: (274 KB)

Additional Child Protection Best Practices Bulletins are available here: