Children Entering the United States Unaccompanied: Section 2
Safe and Timely Release from ORR Care
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has policies and procedures in place to ensure the care and safety of children who are apprehended in the United States without a parent or legal guardian available to provide care and custody and without immigration status. These policies require the timely release of children and youth to qualified parents, guardians, relatives or other adults, referred to as “sponsors.” Safe and timely release must occur within a setting that promotes public safety and ensures that sponsors are able to provide for the physical and mental well-being of children.
ORR evaluates potential sponsors’ ability to provide for the child’s physical and mental well-being, as the law requires ORR to protect children from smugglers, traffickers, or others who might seek to victimize or otherwise engage the child in criminal, harmful or exploitative activity. The process for the safe and timely release of an unaccompanied child from ORR custody involves many steps, including: the identification of sponsors; the submission by a sponsor of the application for release and supporting documentation; the evaluation of the suitability of the sponsor, including verification of the sponsor’s identity and relationship to the child, background checks, and in some cases home studies; and planning for post-release.
ORR begins the process of finding family members and others who may be qualified to care for an unaccompanied child as soon as the child enters ORR’s care. Parents, other relatives, or close family friends can apply to have the child released to their care.
The care provider, the ORR funded facility that cares for the child, interviews the child as well as parents (see the section below on how ORR confirms relationship with child), legal guardians, and/or family members to identify qualified custodians (“sponsors”). If a child is either too young or there are other factors that prohibit the care provider from obtaining potential sponsor information from the unaccompanied child, the care provider may seek assistance from the child’s home country consulate in collaboration with the ORR Federal Field Specialist (ORR/FFS) or from a reputable family tracing organization. Finding a sponsor for the child is an ongoing process that continues during the unaccompanied child’s stay in ORR care and custody in the event that the primary potential sponsor or primary release plan is not approved.
ORR releases children to a sponsor in the following order of preference:1 parent; legal guardian; an adult relative (brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent or first cousin); an adult individual or entity designated by the parent or legal guardian (through a signed declaration or other document that ORR determines is sufficient to establish the signatory’s parental/guardian relationship); a licensed program willing to accept legal custody; or an adult individual or entity seeking custody when it appears that there is no other likely alternative to long term ORR care and custody. ORR has grouped these release options into the following categories.2
- Category 1: Parent or legal guardian (This includes qualifying step-parents that have legal or joint custody of the child or teen)
- Category 2: An immediate relative--a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent or first cousin. (This includes biological relatives, relatives through legal marriage, and half-siblings)
- Category 3: Other sponsor, such as distant relatives and unrelated adult individuals
- Category 4: No sponsors identified
Although ORR gives preference to a parent or legal guardian when determining release plans, there are instances when ORR would not release an unaccompanied child to a parent or legal guardian. These include:
- There has been a court ordered termination of parental rights over the child.
- There is substantial evidence that the child would be at risk of harm if released to the parent or legal guardian.
In some cases, an unaccompanied child enters the United States with her biological child. In those cases, ORR will identify a sponsor for the unaccompanied child as well as for the infant or toddler. In most instances, it is in the best interest of the unaccompanied child and her biological child to be released to the same sponsor. When that occurs, the sponsor is assigned the same category for the infant as for the UC mother. This is true even if the potential sponsor would be assigned a different category (based on their relationship status) if he or she were to sponsor the infant alone.
The child’s care provider is responsible for implementing safe screening methods when contacting and communicating with potential sponsors. These methods are to ensure that a potential sponsor does not pose a risk to the unaccompanied child, to other children in the care provider facility or to care provider staff.
These safe screening methods include:
- Use of appropriate interpreters
- Identity of the sponsor is obtained
- Verification of family relationships
- Coordination with the unaccompanied child’s parents, legal guardians, or closest relatives prior to contacting non-relative adult potential sponsors
- Screening for exploitation, abuse, trafficking, or other safety concerns
- Engaging the child to communicate openly with care provider staff about his or her own sense of safety
All potential sponsors must complete an application in order for a child to be released to them from ORR custody (the “Family Reunification Application”).
Within 24 hours of identification of a potential sponsor for a child or youth, the care provider or the ORR National Call Center sends the sponsor a package with the application and related documents (called the Family Reunification Packet or FRP).
The application package includes the following documents:
- A flyer with contact information on organizations offering a Legal Orientation Program for Custodians (LOPC)
- Family Reunification Packet Cover Letter
- Authorization for Release of Information
- Family Reunification Application
- Family Reunification Checklist for Sponsors
- Sponsor Care Agreement
- (If applicable) Fingerprint instructions
- Sponsor Handbook
- (If parent or legal guardian wishes to specify) Letter of Designation for Care of a Minor
The care provider is available to help the potential sponsor complete the application and will remind potential sponsors of the deadlines for completing the forms. The sponsor may also receive assistance in completing the application at some fingerprinting locations.
In addition to completing and signing the Family Reunification Application (FRA) and the Authorization for Release of Information, potential sponsors must provide documentation of identity, address, and relationship to the child they seek to sponsor (see also The Family Reunification Checklist for Sponsors).3 Potential sponsors must also submit documentation verifying the identity of the children they seek to sponsor, and evidence verifying the identity of all adults residing with the sponsor and all adult care givers identified in a sponsor care plan. In addition to their use as evidence of the foregoing, all documentation submitted under this section is used as part of the overall sponsor assessment process. See Section 2.4 Sponsor Assessment Criteria and Home Studies. As a result, ORR may in its discretion require potential sponsors to submit additional documentation beyond the minimums specified below.
Proof of Sponsor Identity
To verify their identity, all potential sponsors must submit original versions or legible copies of government-issued identification documents. They may present either one selection from List A or two or more documents from List B. If a potential sponsor presents selections from list B, at least one selection must contain a legible photograph. Expired documents are acceptable for the purpose of establishing identity.
LIST OF ACCEPTABLE DOCUMENTS
|U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card|
|Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-551)|
|Foreign Passport that contains a photograph|
|Employment Authorization Document that contains a photograph (Form I-766)|
|U.S. Driver's License or Identification Card|
|U.S. Certificate of Naturalization|
|U.S. Military Identification Card|
|U.S. Social Security Card|
|Court order for name change|
|Foreign national identification card|
|Consular passport renewal receipt that contains a photograph|
|Mexican consular identification card|
|Foreign driver's license that contains a photograph|
|Foreign voter registration card that contains a photograph|
|Canadian border crossing card that contains a photograph|
|Mexican border crossing card that contains a photograph with valid Form I-94|
|Refugee travel document that contains a photograph|
|Other similar documents|
Proof of identify of adult household members and adult care givers identified in a sponsor care plan
All potential sponsors must submit documentation verifying the identity of non-sponsor adults in their household or in a sponsor care plan. For all such adults, potential sponsors must submit at least one identification document that contains a photograph. The document may be from either List A or List B above, and may be an original version or a legible copy of the document. Expired documents are acceptable for the purpose of establishing identity. In addition, potential sponsors may submit an original version or legible copy of an ORR Verification of Release Form, but only to verify the identity of adults under the age of 21, and only if the form contains a photograph. ORR will not accept a Verification of Release as proof of identity if it does not contain a photograph, and/or is for anyone 21 and older.
Proof of Address
All potential sponsors must submit at least one form of documentation verifying their current address. Acceptable forms of documentation include original versions or legible copies of:
- A current lease or mortgage statement dated within the last two months before submission of the FRA;
- A utility bill, addressed in the sponsor’s name and dated within the last two months before submission of the FRA;
- A bank statement dated within the last two months before submission of the FRA;
- A payroll check stub issued by an employer, dated within the last two months before submission of the FRA;
- A piece of mail from a county, state, or federal agency (with the exception of ORR) with the sponsor’s name and residential address and dated within the last two months before submission of the FRA;
- A notarized letter from a landlord on the business stationary of the real property owner confirming the sponsor’s address; and
- Other similar documents reliably indicating that the sponsor resides at the claimed address, dated within the last two months before submission of the FRA.
ORR may use alternative methods to verify address. For example, ORR may send a letter containing specific instructions to the address given by the sponsor, and provide a timeline by which the sponsor must comply with the instructions.
Proof of Child’s Identity
The potential sponsor or child’s family must provide the unaccompanied child’s birth certificate or a legible copy of the child’s birth certificate.
Proof of Sponsor-Child Relationship
The potential sponsor must provide at least one form of evidence verifying the relationship claimed with the child.4 Acceptable documents include original versions or legible copies of:
- Birth certificates;
- Marriage certificates;
- Death certificates;
- Court records;
- Guardianship records;
- Hospital records;
- School records;
- Written affirmation of relationship from Consulate; and
- Other similar documents.
Category 3 potential sponsors who are unable to provide verifiable documentation of a familial relationship with the unaccompanied child must submit evidence that reliably and sufficiently demonstrates a bona fide social relationship with the child and/or the child’s family that existed before the child migrated to the United States. Care providers must attain sufficient corroboration to be confident that they have received needed verification of the relationship between the potential sponsor and the child or child’s family. In the absence of sufficient evidence of a bona fide social relationship with the child and/or the child’s family that existed before the child migrated to the United States, the child will not be released to that individual.
If a potential sponsor has been charged with or convicted of any crime or investigated for the physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, or abandonment of a minor, he or she must provide related court records and police records, as well as governmental social service records or proof of rehabilitation related to the incident.
If a sponsor, household member, or adult caregiver provides any false information in the application of release and/or accompanying documents or submits fraudulent documents for the purposes of obtaining sponsorship of the child, ORR will report the incident to HHS/Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Fraudulent documents include documents on which the address, identity, or other relevant information is false or documents that have been manufactured or altered without lawful authorization. ORR will deny release if it is determined that fraudulent documents were submitted during the application of release process.
All potential sponsors of children and youth under the care of ORR should attend a presentation provided by the Legal Orientation Program for Custodians (LOPC). The purpose of this program is to inform potential sponsors of their responsibilities in ensuring the child’s appearance at all immigration proceedings, as well as protecting the child from mistreatment, exploitation, and trafficking, as provided under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. The program also provides information about possible free legal counsel (pro bono legal services) for the youth or child during the immigration court process.
The Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP), within the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) at the U.S. Department of Justice, manages the LOPC and contracts with legal service organizations around the country to provide LOPC services to potential sponsors in their local communities or in metropolitan areas served by the program. EOIR is the entity in the federal government that is also responsible for adjudicating immigration cases by fairly, expeditiously, and uniformly interpreting and administering the nation's immigration laws.
The unaccompanied child’s case manager is responsible for informing potential sponsors about all procedures related to the child’s case--including attendance at an LOPC presentation. The Family Reunification Packet (FRP) that goes to each potential sponsor includes an Authorization for Release of Information that the sponsor must sign before the case manager may schedule an appointment for LOPC services. All potential sponsors should submit the Authorization for Release of Information immediately and prior to submitting the complete FRP to ensure timely scheduling of their LOPC session.
Upon receipt of the Authorization, the case manager schedules an appointment for a potential sponsor to attend a presentation with one of the LOPC providers around the country. Alternatively, the case manager contacts the LOPC Call Center for Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors at (888) 996-3848 and arranges for the Call Center to schedule an LOPC appointment for the potential sponsor or mail an LOPC Information Packet to the sponsor.
Q: Will sponsors receive the Family Reunification Packet through the mail or electronically?
A: Case managers will work with sponsors to identify the best way to get the packets to them, whether electronically or by fax transmission or postage paid overnight mail.
Q: Do sponsors need assistance from an attorney or a paid representative to complete the packet?
A: No. The unaccompanied child’s case manager will be able to help the potential sponsor complete the form and explain the process.
Q: Is it possible for an unaccompanied child’s spouse to be a sponsor?
A: ORR considers release to an unaccompanied child’s adult spouse on a case by case basis.
Q: Is it possible for family members in the United States to proactively contact ORR about children who may have entered the country unaccompanied?
A: Yes. Family members may call the ORR National Call Center, at (800) 203-7001.
ORR’s sponsor assessment and release decision process requires coordination among care provider staff, nongovernmental third-party reviewers (Case Coordinators), ORR staff, other Federal agencies, stakeholders, and Child Advocates, where applicable.
Case Managers communicate with potential sponsors, gather necessary information and documentation, talk to any relevant stakeholders, and assess sponsors to formulate a recommendation to the Case Coordinator. Case Coordinators concurrently review all assessment information on an unaccompanied child and sponsor to also make a recommendation. Once Case Managers and Case Coordinators agree on a particular recommendation for release, the recommendation will be sent to the ORR/FFS for a final release decision. If the Case Manager and Case Coordinator cannot agree on a recommendation, the case is elevated to the ORR/FFS for further guidance.
ORR/FFS are ORR’s field staff located regionally throughout the country and are assigned to a group of care providers within a region. They have the authority to approve all unaccompanied children transfer and release decisions; oversee care providers to ensure all services, policies, and procedures are properly provided and implemented; and serve as a liaison to local stakeholders, including other Federal agencies, local legal service providers, local communities, Child Advocates, etc. ORR/FFS also provide guidance, direction, and technical assistance to care providers.
With regard to the release process, ORR/FFS oversee individual unaccompanied children cases and review Case Manager, Case Coordinator, and Child Advocate recommendations; and make final release and transfer decisions for ORR. ORR/FFS also make final decisions whether home studies are conducted and/or post-release services are provided.5 ORR/FFS coordinate all aspects of a child’s case with care provider staff, Case Coordinators, stakeholders, and other Federal agencies.
Care provider Case Managers perform a variety of duties, including coordinating the completion of assessments of unaccompanied children, completing individual service plans, assessing potential sponsors, making transfer and release recommendations, and coordinating the release of a child or youth from ORR care and custody. (The care provider provides a range of services through other trained staff that are described in Section 3: Services.)
The role of the Case Manager within the release process is to initiate and maintain ongoing communication with the potential sponsor, gather sponsor information, and assess whether the potential sponsor is a suitable sponsor who can safely provide for the physical and mental well-being of the child or youth. When communicating with the potential sponsor, the Case Manager may:
- Provide direct assistance on completing the sponsor application packet and ensuring provision of supporting documentation;
- Involve the sponsor in making a plan for individualized services for the unaccompanied child, as appropriate;
- Keep the sponsor informed of the child’s progress and current functioning;
- Provide the sponsor with detailed information about the child’s needs in order to fully assess the sponsor’s ability to provide care and services;
- Discuss services that are available in the sponsor’s community for the child; and
- Share relevant information on the unaccompanied child in accordance with applicable privacy and information-sharing policies and in collaboration with the unaccompanied child and the child’s clinician in a way that best serves the child’s safety and well-being.
The Case Manager’s role is also to ensure that information is gathered or shared with the appropriate staff and stakeholders during the sponsor assessment process. The Case Manager provides weekly status updates to the unaccompanied child’s Case Coordinator and ORR/FFS on the progress in achieving a safe and timely release with family members as well as potential challenges that may delay a release. The Case Manager informs other stakeholders of the progress of a child’s case, including notification that an unaccompanied child may not have a potential sponsor, and any final release decisions. Stakeholders may include local legal service providers and attorneys of record, other local service providers, Child Advocates, post-release and home study providers, and other Federal agencies. Case Managers, in collaboration with the ORR/FFS and Case Coordinator, will also work with law enforcement officials regarding an unaccompanied child’s pending release if the minor has outstanding criminal charges or other issues.
Case Coordinators are non-governmental contractor field staff assigned to one or more care providers primarily to review unaccompanied children cases and provide transfer and release recommendations to ORR staff. The Case Coordinator is responsible for integrating all areas of assessment from the Case Manager, Child Advocates, where applicable, and other stakeholders into a release plan that will provide for the unaccompanied child’s physical and mental well-being. After staffing and reviewing a case, Case Coordinators and Case Managers must agree on a release recommendation. If there is a disagreement or a particularly complex case, then the case will be elevated to the ORR/FFS for further guidance.
- Providing timely review and assessment of potential sponsors and unaccompanied children to make recommendations for release to ORR in conjunction with the Case Manager;
- Assisting ORR in ensuring that children are placed in the least restrictive setting while receiving all appropriate services;
- Meeting with individual unaccompanied children and care provider staff at designated ORR-funded care provider sites;
- Providing targeted child welfare-based assistance to care provider staff, as directed by ORR staff;
- Making recommendations for home study and post-release services for at-risk children;
- Making placement recommendations for children who require more specialized levels of care, such as long-term foster care and residential treatment centers;
- Participating in collaborative meetings with local stakeholders; and
- Participating in staffing of cases with care providers and designated ORR staff.
ORR may appoint Child Advocates for victims of trafficking and other vulnerable children. Child Advocates are third parties who make independent recommendations regarding the best interests of a child. Their recommendations are based on information that is obtained from the child and other sources (e.g., the child’s parents, potential sponsors, government agencies, and other stakeholders). Child Advocates formally submit their recommendations to ORR and/or the immigration court in the form of Best Interest Determinations (BIDs). ORR considers BIDs when making decisions regarding the care, placement, and release of unaccompanied children, but it is not bound to follow BID recommendations.
As required by the TVPRA, ORR provides Child Advocates with access to information necessary to effectively advocate for the best interests of children with whom they are working. After providing proof of appointment, Child Advocates have access both to their clients and to their clients’ records. Child Advocates may access their clients’ entire original case files at care provider facilities, or request copies from care providers.6 Further, they may participate in case staffings.
Child Advocates and ORR maintain regular communication, informing each other of considerations or updates that impact service provision and release planning.
Child Advocates’ duties include:
- Client Visits: The Child Advocate meets with the unaccompanied child regularly and speaks with the child’s care provider staff in order to understand the child’s background and current situation.
- Decision Making: The Child Advocate helps the unaccompanied child understand legal and care-related issues, explains the consequences of decisions made in response to those issues, and assists the child in making decisions when the child requests such help.
- Best Interests Advocacy: The Child Advocate develops a service plan containing best-interest recommendations with respect to the care, placement, and release options; and keeps the care provider, ORR, and the legal service provider or attorney of record apprised of the plan and advocacy efforts.
- Case updates: The Child Advocate collaborates and regularly communicates with the care provider, ORR, and other stakeholders in the planning and performance of advocacy efforts. For children who have been released from ORR care, Child Advocates provide timely updates as appropriate or as requested by ORR.
In most cases, ORR appoints Child Advocates while children are in its custody. However, in its discretion, ORR may appoint Child Advocates for unaccompanied children after their release from ORR care.
As noted in the Section 2.2 Application for Safe and Timely Release of an Unaccompanied Child from ORR Care, the application process for release of an unaccompanied child involves a number of steps, including background checks (see Section 2.5 ORR Policies on Requesting Background Checks) and submission of the application by the sponsor. This section describes the criteria ORR uses to assess each potential sponsor’s ability to provide for the physical and mental well-being of the unaccompanied child, and the role of home studies in the process.
The sponsor assessment reviews a sponsor’s strengths, resources, risk factors and special concerns within the context of the unaccompanied child’s needs, strengths, risk factors, and relationship to the sponsor. ORR also determines whether to conduct a home study, as required by the law or as necessary to ensure the welfare of the child
ORR considers the following factors when evaluating family members and other potential sponsors:
- The nature and extent of the sponsor’s previous and current relationship with the child or youth and the unaccompanied child’s family, if a relationship exists.
- The sponsor’s motivation for wanting to sponsor the child or youth.
- The unaccompanied child’s parent or legal guardian’s perspective on the release to the identified potential sponsor (for cases in which the parent or legal guardian has designated a sponsor).
- The child or youth’s views on the release and whether he or she wants to be released to the individual.
- The sponsor’s understanding of the unaccompanied child’s needs, as identified by ORR and the care provider.
- The sponsor’s plan to provide adequate care, supervision, access to community resources, and housing.
- The sponsor’s understanding of the importance of ensuring the unaccompanied child’s presence at all future hearings or proceedings, including immigration court proceedings.
- The linguistic and cultural background of the child or youth and the sponsor, including cultural, social, and communal norms and practices for the care of children.
- The sponsor’s strengths, resources, and mitigating factors in relation to any risks or special concerns of the child or sponsor, such as a criminal background, history of substance abuse, mental health issues, or domestic violence and child welfare concerns.
- The unaccompanied child’s current functioning and strengths in relation to any risk factors or special concerns, such as children or youth who are victims of human trafficking; are a parent or are pregnant; have special needs, disabilities or medical or mental health issues; have a history of criminal, juvenile justice, or gang involvement; or a history of behavioral issues.
The care provider screens each case to determine whether to conduct a home study of the potential sponsor as required under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA). Information about the child is collected during initial placement into an ORR facility and throughout his or her stay. The care provider then uses the information collected about the child in conjunction with the sponsor assessment process to determine whether to conduct a home study. The TVPRA requires home studies under the following circumstances:
- The child is a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons;
- The child is a special needs child with a disability as defined by section 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12102(2));7
- The child has been a victim of physical or sexual abuse under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare has been significantly harmed or threatened; or
- The child’s sponsor clearly presents a risk of abuse, maltreatment, exploitation or trafficking, to the child based on all available objective evidence.
ORR also requires a home study before releasing any child to a non-relative sponsor who is seeking to sponsor multiple children, or has previously sponsored or sought to sponsor a child and is seeking to sponsor additional children. ORR requires a home study for children who are 12 years and under before releasing to a non-relative sponsor.
In circumstances in which a home study is not required by the TVPRA or this section, the Case Manager and Case Coordinator may recommend that a home study be conducted if they agree that the home study will provide additional information required to determine that the sponsor is able to care for the health, safety and well-being of the child. (See Footnote 5)
Home Study Report and Final Recommendation
A home study consists of interviews, a home visit, and a written report containing the home study case worker’s findings. A home study assesses the potential sponsor’s ability to meet the child's needs, educates and prepares the sponsor for the child’s release, and builds on the sponsor assessment conducted by the care provider staff to verify or corroborate information gathered during that process. The home study is conducted as a collaborative psycho-educational process in which the home study case worker identifies areas where additional support, resources, or information are needed to ensure a successful sponsorship, and provides corresponding psycho-educational assistance. The final recommendation must present a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the sponsor’s ability to care for the needs of the child and address any additional information that emerges during the course of the home study regarding the sponsor, the sponsor’s household or the child.
The home study provider must contact the care provider within 24 hours of home study referral acceptance, and must also contact the sponsor to schedule the home visit within 48 hours of referral acceptance. The home study provider makes a recommendation to ORR about release with the sponsor. The ORR Federal Field Specialist takes the home study provider’s recommendation into consideration when making a release decision. ORR has final authority on release decisions.
The home study provider submits the written report within 10 business days of receipt of the referral. Any requests by the home study provider to extend beyond 10 business days or to cancel a home study must be submitted in writing to the ORR Federal Field Specialist for consideration.
All releases following home studies require post-release services.
Must a child receive a Trafficking Eligibility or Interim Assistance Letter from HHS prior to being referred for a TVPRA-mandated home study under #1 above?
No, a child does not need to receive a Trafficking Eligibility Letter from HHS prior to being referred for a home study. A care provider may refer a child for a home study under #1 above if, during the assessment for trafficking, the care provider determines the child is a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons.
In determining whether a TVPRA-mandated home study is required under #3 above, care providers consider the following questions:
What is physical abuse?
Physical abuse is an act that results in physical injury, such as red marks, cuts, welts, bruises, broken bones, missing or broken teeth or muscle strains. Acts of physical abuse include but are not limited to punching, beating, kicking, biting, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap or other object), burning, strangling, whipping, or the unnecessary use of physical restraint.
Is physical abuse intentional?
Generally, physical abuse is intentional; however, physical abuse can occur when physical punishment goes too far. In other words, an accidental injury of a child may be considered physical abuse if the act that injured the child was done intentionally as a form of punishment.
Must a child have physical injuries to meet the standard for physical abuse under #3?
No, in some cases, a child may not have physical injuries at the time the care provider makes an assessment. Children may be in various stages of the healing process or thoroughly healed from the physical abuse by the time they arrive in ORR care.
For the purposes of #3, who can physically or sexually abuse a child?
A parent, legal guardian, caregiver or other adult with a special relationship to the child can physically or sexually abuse a child.
Who is considered to be a caregiver or adult with a special relationship?
A caregiver is defined as any person who is entrusted with the child’s care and who lives with the child. Other adults with a special relationship to the child could include a teacher, priest, or health care provider.
What is sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse of a child by a parent, legal guardian, caregiver or other adult with a special relationship to the child includes any of the following acts, with or without the consent of the child or youth:
- Contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus, including penetration, however slight;
- Contact between the mouth and the penis, vulva, or anus;
- Contact between the mouth and any body part where the adult has the intent to abuse, arouse, or gratify sexual desire;
- Penetration of the anal or genital opening, however slight, by a hand, finger, object, or other instrument where the adult has the intent to abuse, arouse, or gratify sexual desire;
- Any other intentional contact, either directly or through the clothing, of or with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or the buttocks where the intent is to abuse, arouse, or gratify sexual desire;
- Any attempt, threat, or request by the adult to engage in the activities described above;
- Any display by the adult of his or her uncovered genitalia, buttocks, or breast in the presence of the child; and
State laws on statutory rape are not the standard in assessing whether a youth has been sexually abused for the purposes of #3. Care providers use the definition from the ORR rule concerning sexual abuse and harassment; however, for the purposes of determining when a home study is required, the perpetrator is limited to a parent, legal guardian, caregiver or other adult with a special relationship to the child.
Under what circumstances is a child’s health or welfare considered to have been significantly harmed or threatened?
Care providers assess the totality of the circumstances in determining whether a child’s health or welfare has been significantly harmed or threatened. In evaluating a specific case, care providers take into consideration not only the definitions of physical and sexual abuse listed
above, but also the circumstances surrounding the incident and any behaviors that the child or youth exhibits as a result of the abuse. Circumstances to consider include but are not limited to: the amount of time that has passed since the abuse, the period of time in which the abuse occurred, the cultural context in which the abuse occurred, the age of the child or youth at the time of the abuse, and the relationship between the youth and the perpetrator.
Care providers take into consideration the situations and behaviors listed below, but do not make a determination based solely on the presence or absence of one of them.
- The child experiences on-going medical issues from physical injuries.
- The child exhibits negative or harmful behaviors, thoughts or emotions, such as, but not limited to, excessive hostility or aggression towards others, fire setting, cutting, depression, eating disorders suicidal ideation or substance abuse.
In evaluating difficult cases, the care provider should consult with their ORR/FFS.
Q: What happens if a new sponsor is identified during the sponsor assessment process?
A: If there are multiple potential sponsors, the ORR-funded care provider will exhaust all efforts to facilitate a release to a parent or legal guardian while also contacting and evaluating other potential sponsors concurrently. ORR has release order preferences and will evaluate sponsors concurrently in accordance with the preference orders to determine the best placement for the child.
In order to ensure the safety of an unaccompanied child and consistent with the statutory requirements under the TVPRA of 2008, ORR requires a background check of all potential sponsors. Depending on the circumstances, this process may involve background checks on criminal history, child abuse/neglect checks (CA/N), and immigration background checks for the sponsor and, if applicable, adult household members and adult care givers identified in a sponsor care plan. The background check takes place as soon as the potential sponsor has been identified, agreed to the background check, completed the Authorization for Release of Information form, if applicable, and provided a copy of a valid government issued photo identification. Adult household members and adult care givers identified in a sponsor care plan requiring background checks through non-public registries or searches are also required to submit an Authorization for Release of Information and a copy of a valid government issued photo identification.8
The background check process varies, depending in part on the relationship of the potential sponsor to the unaccompanied child:
- Parents and legal guardians (Category 1)
- Other immediate adult relatives, such as brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent or first cousin (Category 2)
- Distant relatives and unrelated adults (Category 3)
As a part of the process, all potential sponsors must undergo a public records check. The following indicates the minimum requirements for the process for sponsors. ORR may require additional checks, verifications, or procedures for sponsors in any category if there are any unresolved issues or questions related to the well being of the child.
The following table lists the types of background checks performed, and explains when they are performed, based on the potential sponsor’s relationship to the unaccompanied child and other release considerations. (See also Section 2.7.4, listing findings barring release)
Type of Background Check
Public Records Check
Identifies arrests or convictions of sponsors, adult household members, or others. If a check reveals a criminal record or safety issue, it will be used to evaluate the sponsor’s ability to provide for a child’s physical and mental well-being.
Potential Sponsors in Categories 1-3
In all cases
Non-sponsor adult household members and adult care givers identified in a sponsor care plan
In all cases
Identifies sponsors and others that have been adjudicated as sex offenders through a national search and, if available, a local Public Registry search.
Potential Sponsors in Categories 1-3
In all cases
Non-sponsor adult household members and adult care givers identified in a sponsor care plan
In all cases
Immigration Status Check conducted through the Central Index System (CIS), the immigration database of non-citizens maintained by USCIS
Provides information about immigration court actions and immigration statuses, including information about orders of removal. The information is used primarily to verify immigration status. If a potential sponsor has immigration issues that could lead to his or her removal from the United States, the sponsor will be required to have a safety plan for the unaccompanied child in the event the sponsor leaves the United States. ORR does not disqualify potential sponsors on the basis of their immigration status.) As follow-up to the Immigration Status Check, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) Hotline provides the latest immigration court information.
Potential Sponsors in Category 1
Category 1 cases where there is a documented risk to the safety of the unaccompanied child, the child is especially vulnerable, and/or the case is being referred for a home study
Potential Sponsors in Categories 2-3
In all cases
Non-sponsor adult household members and adult care givers identified in a sponsor care plan
Where a public records check reveals possible disqualifying factors under 2.7.4; or where there is a documented risk to the safety of the unaccompanied child, the child is especially vulnerable, and/or the case is being referred for a home study
National (FBI) Criminal History Check, based on digital fingerprints or digitized paper prints
Determines whether a sponsor or adult household member has a criminal history, has been convicted of a sex crime, or has been convicted of other crimes that compromise the sponsor’s ability to care for a child.
Potential Sponsors in Category 1
Where there is a documented risk to the safety of the unaccompanied child, the child is especially vulnerable, and/or the case is being referred for a home study
|Potential Sponsors in Categories 2-3||In all cases|
|Non-sponsor adult household members and adult care givers identified in a sponsor care plan||Where a public records check reveals possible disqualifying factors under 2.7.4; or where there is a documented risk to the safety of the unaccompanied child, the child is especially vulnerable, and/or the case is being referred for a home study|
Child Abuse and Neglect (CA/N) Check, obtained on a state by state basis as no national CA/N check repository exists
Checks all localities in which the sponsor or household member has resided in the past 5 years
Potential Sponsors in Categories 1-2
In cases that require a home study, and cases where a special concern is identified
Potential Sponsors in Category 3
|In all cases|
Non-sponsor adult household members and adult care givers identified in a sponsor care plan
In any case where a special concern is identified
State Criminal History Repository Check and/or Local Police Check
Assists in locating police or arrest records, or other criminal offense details, as needed.
Potential Sponsors in Categories 1-3
Used on a case-by-case basis when there is an unresolved criminal arrest or issue that is still in process
Non-sponsor adult household members and adult care givers identified in a sponsor care plan
As an entity providing for the health and well-being of children and youth, ORR uses the results from background checks to determine whether release to a potential sponsor is safe. A potential sponsor may be denied a release request, based on the results of a background check, and a release decision may remain undecided until ORR obtains the results of a potential sponsor’s criminal history, immigration background checks, or child abuse and neglect reports.
In the event that a background check of a potential sponsor or, if applicable, adult household member, reveals criminal history or a safety risk, the care provider and ORR evaluate this information and request the potential sponsor to provide any additional information that may demonstrate the potential sponsor’s ability to provide for the child’s physical and mental well-being.
If release is not barred by Section 2.7.4, the decision to release a child or youth to a sponsor in these circumstances is based on all the following considerations:
- The severity of the criminal and/or child abuse/neglect history;
- The length of time that has passed since the criminal act or child abuse/neglect allegation occurred;
- The relationship of the potential sponsor and other adult household members to the child or youth; and
- The evidence, if any, of rehabilitation since the criminal act or child abuse/neglect allegation occurred.
In cases where the proposed sponsor or other adult household member has been charged with, but not convicted of, a crime, ORR may postpone a final release decision until the legal issue is resolved.
If the sponsor has an outstanding order of removal, or a pending order of removal that is related to an underlying criminal act, the decision to release a child or youth to a sponsor in these circumstances is based on the considerations described above.
Sponsor Immigration Status
ORR does not disqualify potential sponsors on the basis of their immigration status. ORR uses status information to determine whether a sponsor care plan is necessary in the event the sponsor is required to leave the United States. (See Section 2.6 Effect of Sponsor Immigration Status on Release of Unaccompanied Children)
Summary Table of Results of Background Checks and Next Steps
The following table shows procedures following the results of background checks.
|Background Check Results||
No arrest record; check completed
Proceed with release decision-making process. See Section 2.7 Recommendations and Decisions on Release.
Criminal arrest record and/or substantiated adverse child welfare findings; check completed
Determine whether release is barred. See Section 2.7.4 Deny Release Request. If release is not barred, elevate safety issues for third party review. For any findings that could affect safe release, care provider and/or ORR will obtain additional documents to determine current situation (e.g. sponsor is on probation, criminal charges are resolved, etc.). Final release decision shall take into account the criminal records and all other relevant information that is available.
Immigration status concern (e.g. out of status, no legal status, prior order of removal, or no immigration record for non-citizen)
Review FBI record and CIS database report, and/or Department of Justice/Executive Office of Immigration Review’s case status hotline for information related to possible unresolved immigration issues.
Pending results; check not complete
ORR/FFS will provide instructions to care provider
Q1: Where can a sponsor get his or her fingerprints taken?
A1: ORR funds a network of digital fingerprint providers at locations that are not affiliated with law enforcement entities. Sponsors may also go to any local police department for paper fingerprinting services in the event a digital fingerprint provider is not conveniently located near a sponsor’s location. Fingerprinting services are not available at ORR headquarters and offices.
Q2: Is there a deadline for complying with a fingerprinting request?
A2: Yes. When required, fingerprints should be provided within 3 business days of the request. Release may be delayed if fingerprints are not provided promptly.
Q3: Are potential sponsors required to disclose to the care provider that they have a record of a criminal charge or child abuse?
A: Yes. The sponsor must immediately advise the care provider of this situation and gather detailed documentation of the charges, dispositions, police reports, and evidence of rehabilitation.
Q4: What happens if a public records or sex offender registry check returns disqualifying findings for a sponsor, adult household member, or adult caregiver identified in the sponsor care plan?
A4: The Case Manager informs the sponsor, and provides the sponsor with a copy of the results. The sponsor and household member/adult care giver may dispute the results, and provide further evidence or information that a check was not performed correctly (e.g., the wrong date of birth was used, the individual’s name was spelled incorrectly, etc.). The Case Manager will rerun the check using the corrected information. If further information is required, such as additional background checks, the Case Manager will work with the sponsor and household member/adult caregiver to obtain the information, or make other arrangements so that the safety risk to the unaccompanied child is mitigated (e.g., taking steps so that the household member no longer resides in the sponsor’s home, identifying a new adult care giver, etc.).
Q5: What happens if an adult household member refuses to cooperate with a background check?
A5: ORR may deny release when an adult household member refuses to have a background check. When an adult household member refuses to cooperate with a background check, ORR will review the circumstances of the refusal and all other relevant information that is available to determine whether the release process will continue. A determination is made by judging what is in the best interests of the child. A child may not be released to any sponsor until a determination is made that it is safe to do so.
ORR does not disqualify potential sponsors on the basis of their immigration status. ORR does seek immigration status information, but this is used to determine if a sponsor care plan will be needed if the sponsor needs to leave the United States; it is not used as a reason to deny a family reunification application.
How does ORR obtain information about immigration status?
ORR asks potential sponsors for their Alien Registration Number on the Authorization for Release of Information form. In addition, as described below, ORR requires certain sponsors to provide fingerprints for background checks, and those checks may produce information about the individual’s immigration status. During the sponsor assessment process, case managers also ask sponsors about their immigration status.
Who must provide fingerprints as part of the release process?
All non-parents and some parents and legal guardians are subject to fingerprinting requirements. Parents and legal guardians must submit fingerprints if there is a documented risk to the safety of the unaccompanied child, the child is especially vulnerable, and/or the case is being referred for a home study.
What does ORR use the fingerprints for?
Using digital fingerprints or digitized paper prints, the HHS Office of Security and Strategic Information (OSSI), on behalf of ORR, conducts a check of the FBI national criminal history and state repository records.
What information does ORR obtain from the FBI criminal history and state repository check?
The FBI criminal background and state repository check provides immigration arrests by immigration authorities, such as an illegal entry, and criminal arrests, such as DUI and assault.
What other checks related to immigration status might be conducted?
OSSI, on behalf of ORR, may conduct a check of the Central Index System (CIS), the immigration database of non-citizens. In addition, if OSSI has an alien registration number for the potential sponsor, OSSI calls the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) Hotline for immigration court status.
When does ORR conduct a CIS check?
All non-parents and some parents and legal guardians are subject to CIS checks. Parents and legal guardians undergo a CIS check if there is a documented risk to the safety of the UC, the UC is especially vulnerable, and/or the case is being referred for a home study.
What does the CIS check provide?
The CIS check provides immigration court actions and information about orders of removal or other immigration status.
What does ORR do with the results of the FBI fingerprint and CIS checks?
The information may be used to determine if a sponsor care plan will be needed in the event that the sponsor needs to leave the United States. In addition, if the basis for an immigration action is underlying criminal activity, ORR and its grantee will review the underlying criminal activity to determine if it is reason to disqualify the potential sponsor, as ORR does when evaluating other criminal activity uncovered during the fingerprint process, but unrelated to immigration actions.
Who else may have access to the results of the FBI fingerprint checks?
ORR does not release the results of the FBI fingerprints to outside organizations or individuals, other than ORR grantees that are caring for the children. The FBI and DHS databases contain overlapping records, and the FBI system automatically initiates a notification to the DHS system if a particular record has been searched.
What is in a sponsor care plan?
A sponsor care plan identifies the individual that will assume care of an unaccompanied child if the sponsor becomes unable to care for the child. The care plan also has guidance for sponsors on participating in post-release services and on other areas of care critical to the child’s adjustment in the family and the community, such as maintaining mental health services for the unaccompanied child, accessing any needed special education, helping the child avoid drugs and alcohol, and using appropriate parenting techniques.
After the ORR care provider has evaluated the sponsor, completed the background checks, and collected necessary documentation to prove a sponsor’s identity and relationship to the child or youth, the care provider must determine whether to recommend release of the child to the potential sponsor. Such recommendation must take into consideration all relevant information, including the report and recommendations of a home study, if conducted, and be made only when the ORR care provider concludes that the release is a safe release and that the sponsor can care for the health and well-being of the child.
- The care provider Case Manager and the Case Coordinator must make a recommendation to the ORR/FFS on the release of the unaccompanied child to a particular sponsor. If the Case Manager and Case Coordinator cannot agree on a particular recommendation, or if the case is particularly complicated, they may refer the case directly to an ORR/FFS for guidance on how to proceed.
- Once a recommendation is made, the ORR/FFS or other ORR/Headquarters staff reviews the recommendation.
- The ORR/FFS makes a release decision in consideration of the recommendations from the care provider, the Case Coordinator, and other stakeholders, including the home study provider and the Child Advocate where applicable.
Only ORR has the authority to make the final decision on a release. The Case Manager and Case Coordinator and other stakeholders hold important roles of making recommendations, based on all available information, the laws and statutes governing the process, and other factors that may contribute to a particular case. In some cases, the ORR/FFS may send a case back to the Case Coordinator and Case Manager with the request to obtain additional information before he/she will make a release decision.
The ORR/FFS will make one of the following release decisions:
- Approve release to sponsor
- Approve release with post-release services
- Conduct a home study before a final release decision can be made
- Deny release
- Remand for further information
A recommendation for a release without a home study or post-release services is made after a thorough assessment of the sponsor, the sponsor’s family unit, and the needs of the child or youth are taken into consideration. The ORR/FFS makes this release decision when he/she determines that the release is a safe release, the sponsor can care for the health and well-being of the child, and the sponsor understands that the child is to appear for all immigration proceedings.
The ORR/FFS may approve a release with post-release services when the release is determined to be safe and appropriate, but the unaccompanied child and sponsor need additional assistance to connect them to appropriate resources in the community or to address other concerns, such as mental health or other needs that could benefit from ongoing assistance from a social welfare agency. The sponsor must consent before services may be provided and may withdraw his or her consent at any time after services have begun, since post-release services are a voluntary service. These services are provided for 6 months after the unaccompanied child is released to the sponsor, unless ORR determines that services should be provided for a shorter or longer period of time. Post- release services do not continue under any circumstances beyond an unaccompanied child’s 18th birthday.
The Case Manager and Case Coordinator will recommend to the ORR/FFS that a home study be conducted prior to making a release recommendation. If the ORR/FFS agrees, he/she will approve that a home study be conducted before a final release decision can be made. The home study provider uses a standardized template to complete the review; however, the provider may include any additional supporting documentation regarding the sponsor or the child or youth, as applicable.
Once the Case Manager and Case Coordinator receive the home study results, they will review the case in light of the home study and make a release recommendation to the ORR/FFS. (See Section 2.4.2 Home Study Requirements.)
ORR will deny release to a potential sponsor if any one of the following conditions exists:
- The potential sponsor is not willing or able to provide for the child’s physical or mental well-being;
- The physical environment of the home presents risks to the child’s safety and well-being; or
- Release of the unaccompanied child would present a risk to him or herself, the sponsor, household, or the community.
ORR may deny release to a Category 1 potential sponsor, and will deny release to a Category 2 or Category 3 potential sponsor, if any one of the following conditions exists:9
- The potential sponsor or a member of the potential sponsor’s household:
- Has been convicted of (including plea of no contest to) a felony involving child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse; a crime against a child or children (including child pornography); or a crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault or homicide;
- Has been convicted within the last five years of a felony involving physical assault, battery, or drug-related offenses;
- Has been convicted of a misdemeanor for a sex crime, an offense involving a child victim, or a drug offense that compromises the sponsor’s ability to ensure the safety and well-being of the child;
- Has been convicted of alien smuggling or a crime related to trafficking in persons; or
- Has other criminal history or pending criminal charges or child welfare adverse findings from which one could reasonably infer that the sponsor’s ability to ensure the safety and well-being of the child is compromised;
- A potential sponsor or a member of the potential sponsor’s household has one of the following substantiated adverse child welfare findings:10
- Severe or chronic abuse or neglect;
- Sexual Abuse or other sexual offenses;
- Abuse or neglect of other children in the household;
- Long-term mental illness or deficiency;
- Long-term alcohol or drug induced incapacity; or
- Involuntary termination of the parental rights to another child.
The ORR/FFS may remand the release request, which means that the ORR/FFS is sending the recommendation back to the Case Manager for additional information or additional actions before a final release decision can be made. ORR records the date of the remand and the decision will be pending further review until the documentation is provided or actions are taken.
Case managers, in consultation with Case Coordinators, will prepare a safety plan, as needed, to address any outstanding needs the child may have after he/she is released and to ensure the child’s safe and successful integration into the sponsor family unit and community. The goal of the safety plan is to ensure the child’s safety.
Sponsor Care Plan
Unlike safety plans, sponsor care plans are only used for sponsors without immigration status. If a sponsor does not have immigration status, ORR will require the sponsor to ensure that a sponsor care plan is in place in the event that the sponsor needs to leave the United States or is otherwise unable to care for the child. The plan identifies the individual who will assume care of the child and will abide by the terms of the sponsor care agreement. The goal is to ensure an unaccompanied child has a caregiver, despite any complications resulting from the sponsor’s immigration situation.
ORR must notify a parent or legal guardian in writing if they are denied the release of a child. The denial notification letter must include:
- The basis for the denial
- Information on the process for requesting reconsideration of the decision
A parent or legal guardian who wants to request reconsideration of a release decision should submit a request to the ACF Assistant Secretary within 30 business days of receipt of the denial notice. The request should include the basis for the request along with any additional information that the requestor would like the ACF Assistant Secretary to consider.
The ACF Assistant Secretary will conduct a review of the decision and notify the requestor of the results.
Sponsors other than parents or legal guardians who would like to request reconsideration of a release decision should submit a letter to ORR requesting a reconsideration of the decision.
Release from the ORR custody is a three-step process:
- After care planning, which occurs during the entire safe and timely release process.
- Transfer of physical custody of the child, which occurs as soon as possible once an unaccompanied child is approved for release.
- Closing the case file, which occurs within 24 hours of the unaccompanied child’s discharge.
Throughout the release process, care providers work with the child and sponsor so that they can plan for the child’s after care needs. This involves working with the sponsor and the unaccompanied child to:
- Prepare them for post-ORR custody
- Assess the sponsor’s ability to access community resources
- Provide guidance regarding safety planning (if applicable) and accessing services for the child
Once the sponsor assessment is complete and a sponsor has been approved, the sponsor enters into an agreement with the Federal government in which he or she agrees to comply with the following provisions (see Sponsor Care Agreement):
- Provide for the physical and mental well-being of the child, including but not limited to, food, shelter, clothing, education, medical care and other services as needed.
- For those who are not the child’s parent or legal guardian, make best efforts to establish legal guardianship with the local court within a reasonable time.
- Attend a legal orientation program provided under the Department of Justice/Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) Legal Orientation Program for Custodians (Sponsors), if available where he or she resides.
- Depending on where the unaccompanied child’s immigration case is pending, notify the local Immigration Court or the Board of Immigration Appeals within 5 days of any change of address or phone number of the child (Form EOIR-33). (If applicable, file a Change of Venue motion on the child’s behalf.11 A “change of venue” is a legal term for moving an immigration hearing to a new location.)
- Notify the DHS/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within 10 days of any change of address by filing an Alien’s Change of Address Card (AR-11) or electronically at http://www.uscis.gov/ar-11
- Ensure the unaccompanied child’s presence at all future proceedings before the DHS/Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the DOJ/EOIR.
- Ensure the unaccompanied child reports to ICE for removal from the United States if an immigration judge issues a removal order or voluntary departure order.
- Notify local law enforcement or state or local Child Protective Services if the child has been or is at risk of being subjected to abuse, abandonment, neglect or maltreatment or if the sponsor learns that the child has been threatened, has been sexually or physically abused or assaulted, or has disappeared. (Notice should be given as soon as it is practicable or no later than 24 hours after the event or after becoming aware of the risk or threat.)
- Notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 if the unaccompanied child disappears, has been kidnapped, or runs away. (Notice should be given as soon as it becomes practicable or no later than 24 hours after learning of the child’s disappearance.)
- Notify ICE at 1-866-347-2423 if the unaccompanied child is contacted in any way by an individual(s) believed to represent an alien smuggling syndicate, organized crime, or a human trafficking organization. (Notice should be provided as soon as possible or no later than 24 hours after becoming aware of the information.)
- In case of an emergency, such as serious illness, destruction of home, etc., temporarily transfer physical custody of the child to another person who will comply with the terms of the Sponsor Care Agreement.
- In the event that a sponsor who is not the child’s parent or legal guardian is no longer able and willing to care for the unaccompanied child and is unable to temporarily transfer physical custody, notify ORR using the ORR National Call Center, at 1-800-203-7001.
The agreement includes the notice that the release of the unaccompanied child to the sponsor’s care does not grant the child any legal immigration status and that the child must present himself or herself for immigration court proceedings.
The care provider also provides the sponsor with a Sponsor Handbook that outlines the responsibilities in caring for the unaccompanied child’s needs for education, health, obtaining legal guardianship, finding support to address traumatic stress, keeping children safe from child abuse and neglect and from trafficking and exploitation. The handbook reiterates the importance of continuing with immigration proceedings and includes links to EOIR’s website and forms. The handbook discusses laws related to employment, such as the Federal law prohibiting minors under the age of 18 from working in hazardous occupations.
After care planning includes the care provider explaining the following to the unaccompanied child and the sponsor:
- The U.S. child abuse and neglect standards and child protective services that are explained on the Administration for Children and Families Child Welfare Information Gateway website.
- Human trafficking indicators and resources
- Basic safety and how to use the 9-1-1 number in emergency situations.
The care provider notifies all stakeholders of the child’s discharge date and change of address and venue, as applicable. Where applicable, ORR also provides Child Advocates with access to their clients’ documents and forms, and helps child advocates to remain informed about their clients’ after-care plans and legal proceedings. The care provider coordinates with the legal service provider or attorney of record to help complete the necessary legal forms. Stakeholders notified of the change of address and, if applicable, request for change of venue for the immigration case include the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Chief Counsel and the U.S. Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) Immigration Court Administrator.
Once ORR approves an unaccompanied child for release, the care provider collaborates with the sponsor to ensure physical discharge happens as quickly as possible (within 3 calendar days after ORR approves the release). The care provider notifies DHS prior to the physical release to allow DHS an opportunity to comment on the imminent release as well as time to prepare any DHS paperwork for the ICE Chief Counsel’s office.
The care provider ensures that all the child’s belongings—including those he or she had at the time they entered ORR custody and any they acquired during their stay—are given to the child and sponsor at time of release. The care provider also makes sure that the child and sponsor have copies of files or papers needed for the child to obtain medical, educational, legal or other services following release.
Whenever possible, sponsors are expected to come to the care provider or to an offsite location designated by the care provider for the transfer of physical custody of the child.
Under extenuating circumstances (e.g., a sponsor cannot travel due to a medical condition), ORR may approve an unaccompanied child to be escorted to a sponsor. Similarly, if a sponsor pick-up would result in delay of a timely release of the child, ORR may approve an escort for an unaccompanied child.
If an unaccompanied child’s final destination involves air travel and the sponsor will not be traveling with the child, the care provider must follow the procedures in the table below concerning care provider escorts and airline escorts.
Unaccompanied children who are under the age of 14 years old traveling via air may only be escorted by care provider staff, unless an ORR/FFS Supervisor has approved the use of an airline escort in advance.
The sponsor is responsible for the unaccompanied child’s transportation costs and, if the care provider is escorting the child, for the care provider’s transportation or airfare. If an airline escort is used, the sponsor is responsible for paying the airline’s unaccompanied minor service fee.
Under no circumstances will ORR pay for the sponsor’s airfare.
The following table summarizes procedures for each method of transfer.
|Method of Transfer||
At point of Transfer
Sponsor pick-up at care provider facility
Care provider escort to offsite transfer location
Travel via airline’s unaccompanied minor escort policy (only for youth 14 years of age and older)
When arranging for children to travel with airline escorts, care providers should also refer to the U.S. Department of Transportation recommendations for unaccompanied minors traveling by air (“When Kids Fly Alone”).
The care provider completes a Discharge Notification form within 24 hours of the physical discharge of a youth, and then emails the form to DHS and other stakeholders. Once a child is released to a sponsor, ORR’s custodial relationship with the child terminates.
Although the custodial relationship ends, the care provider keeps the case file open for 30 days after the release date in order to conduct the Safety and Well Being Follow Up Call (see Section 2.8.4) and document the results of the call in the case file. The care provider closes the case file record after completing the Safety and Well Being Follow Up Call.
Care providers must conduct a Safety and Well Being Follow Up Call with an unaccompanied child and his or her sponsor 30 days after the release date. The purpose of the follow up call is to determine whether the child is still residing with the sponsor, is enrolled in or attending school, is aware of upcoming court dates, and is safe. The care provider must document the outcome of the follow up call in the child’s case file, including if the care provider is unable to contact the sponsor or child after reasonable efforts have been exhausted. If the follow up call indicates that the sponsor and/or child would benefit from additional support or services, the care provider must refer the sponsor or child to the ORR National Call Center and provide the sponsor or child the Call Center contact information. If the care provider believes that the child is unsafe, the care provider must comply with mandatory reporting laws, State licensing requirements, and Federal laws and regulations for reporting to local child protective agencies and/or law enforcement.
ORR follows CDC guidance and recommendations for Zika virus laboratory testing. CDC recommends testing for all pregnant UC without symptoms, but who are from or traveled through areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission and are within 2–12 weeks of arrival in the United States. Other UC who develop two or more symptoms consistent with Zika may be tested for Zika virus upon consultation with a healthcare provider.
Pregnant UC who are diagnosed with Zika virus disease, have laboratory results compatible with Zika virus infection, or have laboratory results that cannot rule out Zika virus infection will be referred for post-release services. Similarly, UC who delivered while in ORR care will be referred for post-release services if they were diagnosed with Zika virus disease, had laboratory results compatible with Zika virus infection, or had laboratory results that cannot rule out Zika virus infection while pregnant.
In some cases, asymptomatic pregnant UC are released pending lab results. In those cases, ORR will communicate their test results to them and their new healthcare provider. If their results are compatible with Zika virus infection or if Zika virus infection cannot be ruled out, ORR will refer them for post-release services.
Post-release services for eligible UC described above include the full range of post-release services with a focus on connecting the UC to prenatal care and maternal-child resources.
For more information about the Zika virus, please go to the CDC website at: www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html
4. Verification of the potential sponsor’s relationship to the child is a minimum step required by the TVPRA to determine a potential sponsor’s suitability and capability of providing for the child’s physical and mental well-being. See 8 U.S.C. § 1232. As a result, as stated above, ORR may in its discretion require the submission of multiple forms of evidence.
5. ORR/FFS Supervisors are the final authority for approving discretionary home studies (See Section 2.4.2)
8. An Authorization for Release of Information is not required for sponsors, adult household members, or adult care givers identified in a sponsor care plan undergoing a sex offender registry check. An Authorization for Request of Information also is not required for sponsors, adult household members and adult caregivers identified in a sponsor care plan undergoing a public records check. However, sponsors will receive notice that public records and sex offender registry checks will be performed, and will have an opportunity to explain the results of these checks to ORR. ORR will also provide a method for disputing the results of checks.(See Section 2.5.3, Q4).
11. The Change of Venue motion must contain information specified by the Immigration Court. A Change of Venue motion may require the assistance of an attorney. For guidance on the “motion to change venue,” see the Immigration Court Practice Manual at www.justice.gov/eoir/vll/OCIJPracManual/ocij_page1.htm. For immigration case information please contact EOIR’s immigration case information system at 1-800-898-7180. Visit EOIR’s website for additional information at: www.justice.gov/eoir/formslist.htm.