Unaccompanied children apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration officials are transferred to the care and custody of ORR. The age of these individuals, their separation from parents and relatives, and the hazardous journey they take make unaccompanied children especially vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Unaccompanied children have multiple, inter-related reasons for undertaking the difficult journey of traveling to the United States, which may include rejoining family already in the United States, escaping violent communities or abusive family relationships in their home country, or finding work to support their families in the home country.
The majority of unaccompanied children are cared for through a network of state licensed ORR-funded care providers, most of which are located close to areas where immigration officials apprehend large numbers of aliens. These care provider facilities are state licensed and must meet ORR requirements to ensure a high level of quality of care. They provide a continuum of care for children, including foster care, group homes, shelter, staff secure, secure, and residential treatment centers. The care providers operate under cooperative agreements and contracts, and provide children with classroom education, health care, socialization/recreation, vocational training, mental health services, family reunification, access to legal services, and case management.
ORR assumes the following responsibilities while caring for unaccompanied children entering the United States:
In order to help unaccompanied children access legal representation to the greatest extent possible and practicable, ORR coordinates a legal access project. The legal access project provides children with presentations on their rights, conducts individualized legal screenings, and builds pro bono legal representation capacity. Many unaccompanied children meet conditions that make them eligible for legal relief to remain in the United States including, but not limited to asylum; special visas for children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by the parents or guardian; special visas for victims of severe forms of trafficking and other types of crime; or adjustment of status for those who have a legal resident or citizen family member.
In addition to the legal access project, ORR announced a program expansion to support the need for legal services for unaccompanied children after their release from the custody of ORR, by awarding additional funds to two existing grantees to hire attorneys to provide legal representation to approximately 2,600 unaccompanied children.
Office of Refugee Resettlement
Administration for Children and Families
901 D Street, SW
Washington, DC 20447
Last Reviewed: September 10, 2015