Services Provided

The Office of Refugee Resettlement is responsible for providing care to children referred by immigration authorities. Consistent with federal law, ORR places children in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child, taking into account potential flight risk and danger to self and others. The majority of the youth are cared for through a network of state-licensed ORR-funded care providers that provide:

  • Access to Legal services
  • Education
  • Culture, language and religious observation
  • Physical and mental health care
  • Recreation

Access to Legal Services

The Department of Health and Human Services is required to arrange for legal representation for unaccompanied alien children to the greatest extent practicable under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, though the law specifically acknowledges that there is no obligation for the government to provide paid counsel.

All children receive the following legal information:

  • the mandated “Know Your Rights” workshop
  • pro bono legal service provider lists
  • notifying the children of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status eligibility guidelines

ORR provides Know Your Rights presentations and legal screenings of unaccompanied alien children to determine potential eligibility for immigration relief. Information about legal services are also maintained and provided upon release. In addition, ORR supports pro bono representation and provides ORR-funded legal representation for children in its long-term foster care program, children released locally to their care provider facility, those seeking voluntary departure, and those imminently facing an order of removal or otherwise without reunification options.

ORR also funds direct representation or court appearance support for unaccompanied children. The contracts focus on providing post-release direct representation in the nine priority cities, children who are released from a shelter locally, and other children according to the solicitation and ORR requirements.

Children also have access to phones to contact family or legal services.

Culture, Language and Religious Observation

Unaccompanied alien children entering ORR custody come from a wide array of cultures, practices, languages, and beliefs. Care providers must have the cultural awareness and systems in place to support the cultural identity and needs of each unaccompanied child.
Care providers must provide opportunities for unaccompanied alien children to observe and practice their spiritual or religious beliefs.

Education Services

While in HHS custody at HHS shelters, unaccompanied alien children will not be enrolled in the local school systems. Each unaccompanied alien child must receive a minimum of six hours of structured education, Monday through Friday, throughout the entire year in basic academic areas.

When students are released to an appropriate sponsor, while awaiting immigration proceedings, they have a right – just like other children living in their community – to enroll in local schools regardless of their or their sponsors’ actual or perceived immigration or citizenship status. State laws also require children to attend school up to a certain age.

A small number of children in HHS custody are placed in long-term foster care instead of being released to a sponsor. These children do enroll in public school in the community where their foster care is located. Learn more information about local educational agencies and unaccompanied alien children.

Read more about academic and vocation educational services provided by ORR.

Physical and Mental Health Care

See the Health and Safety page for more information.

Recreation Services

Care providers must develop recreation and leisure plans that include daily outdoor activities, weather permitting, for unaccompanied alien children in their care. The plan includes at least one hour per day of large muscle activity and one hour per day of structured leisure time activities other than television (three hours per day on weekends or holidays).

Recreation and leisure time activities are separate from the required physical educational requirement.