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Rights and Justice

Detained or Deported: What About My Children?

Maintaining custody of your children during detention and deportation can be extremely complicated. Apprehended parents are not guaranteed a phone call to make care arrangements for their children. Children can end up in the child welfare system if both parents are apprehended, if the migrant is a single parent, or if another parent or caretaker doesn't know how to find them.

Detained or Deported: What About My Children? is an in-depth guide is for migrant parents and their relatives, friends, advocates and lawyers. It provides step-by-step instructions for how to ensure that they get their children back at the end of the immigration process. It also includes a safety planning tool so that parents can create a safe and effective plan to have in place before they are detained. 

The scale of this problem is huge: over 5,000 children are in foster care because their parents have been detained or deported. Far more are living with friends and relatives, having lost their parents to the collision of the immigration enforcement system and the child welfare system. When a parent enters the immigration system, it is a confusing, chaotic and traumatic experience for the entire family. And that trauma can have life-long effects.

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Available in English and Spanish, the toolkit contains information on:

  • Protecting parental rights when detained or deported
  • Making care arrangements for children
  • Determining if a child is in the child welfare system and participating in that system
  • Complying with a child welfare ordered reunification plan
  • Participating in family court proceedings
  • Reunifying with children following release from detention or deportation

The toolkit also includes:

  • Contact information for state child welfare agencies in all 50 states
  • Links to state-specific handbooks for parents with children in the child welfare system
  • Guidance on how to request appointed counsel in family court
  • List of states that provide court-appointed lawyers in family court
  • Instructions on applying for U.S. passports from detention
  • Contact information for adoption reunion registries
  • Contact information for child welfare agencies in Mexico and Central America

The toolkit is available in the law libraries of all detention centers housing adults for more than 72 hours. In addition, it is available to community organizations and social service providers around the United States.


Rights and Justice