• July/August 2014
  • Vol. 15, No. 7

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Keeping Immigrant Families Together

When undocumented immigrant parents are detained and facing deportation proceedings, their children often enter foster care. Once a child is in State custody, a detained or deported parent faces many challenges to being reunited with his or her child.

In "Keeping Immigrant Families in the Child Protection System Together," an article recently published in in the American Bar Association's (ABA's) Child Law Practice, author Ann Park discusses many of the problems these families face, including the difficulty in locating parents who have been removed to detention centers, accessing services needed to comply with case plans, meeting reunification timelines, lack of access to court proceedings, lack of State policies on reunification of children with deported parents, and a systemic bias in child welfare against undocumented parents and their relatives.

The author describes Federal laws and policies that can impact immigrant families and highlights recent State legislation in California that aims to address the challenges to reunification that undocumented families face. The article discusses in detail a directive issued by the U.S. Immigration and Enforcement (ICE) in 2013 to establish policy and procedures to address the placement and removal of undocumented parents. Some of the specific policies include:

  • Placing the detained parent as close as practicable to the location of the child
  • Arranging for the parent's in-person appearance at court hearings involving the child
  • Facilitating visitation between the detained parent and his or her child
  • Helping parents appear at court hearings regarding their children after removal from the country

The article concludes with practice tips or specific steps that can be taken on the State level, by child welfare agencies, dependency courts, parent attorneys, and children's attorneys, that can help address the needs of these families and lead to better outcomes.

Child Law Practice is published monthly by the ABA Center on Children and the Law. This article is available to subscribers here:



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