Children Entering the United States Unaccompanied: Section 1
Placement in ORR Care Provider Facilities
1.1 Summary of Policies for Placement and Transfer of Unaccompanied Alien Children in ORR Care Provider Facilities
The majority of unaccompanied alien children come into ORR custody because they were apprehended by border patrol officers with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) while trying to enter the United States without legal authorization. DHS (and in rare circumstances other federal agencies) may refer unaccompanied alien children to ORR’s care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
ORR has procedures in place to obtain background information on the unaccompanied alien child from the referring Federal agency to assess whether the unaccompanied alien child is a danger to self or others, whether there are any known medical and/or mental health issues, and whether other special concerns or needs are known, and then to designate an available care provider. ORR uses this information to determine an appropriate placement in the least restrictive setting for the unaccompanied alien child.
ORR policies for placing children and youth in its custody into care provider facilities are based on legal requirements as well as child welfare best practices in order to provide a safe environment and place the child in the least restrictive setting appropriate for the child’s needs. ORR may place a child in a shelter facility, foster care or group home (which may be therapeutic), staff-secure or secure care facility, residential treatment center, or other special needs care facility.
There are two types of placement decisions: (1) the initial placement into an ORR care provider facility or setting and (2) transfer placement between ORR care providers. Although the circumstances and procedures for initial placement and transfer vary, ORR applies the same child welfare principles in its decision making process.
The referring Federal agency generally transports the unaccompanied alien child to the ORR care provider.
ORR takes custody of the unaccompanied alien child when the child or youth physically arrives at the designated ORR care provider.
ORR policies for placing children and youth in its custody into care provider facilities are based on child welfare best practices in order to provide a safe environment and place the child in the least restrictive setting appropriate for the child’s needs. ORR may place a child in a shelter facility, foster care or group home (may be therapeutic), staff secure or secure care facility, residential treatment center, or other special needs care facility.
There are two types of placement decisions: the initial placement into an ORR care provider facility or other setting and transfer placement between ORR care providers. Although the circumstances and procedures for initial placement and transfer vary, ORR applies the same child welfare model to both types of care delivery.
ORR makes every effort to place children and youth within the ORR funded care provider network. However, there may be instances when ORR determines there is no care provider available within the network to provide specialized services needed for special needs cases. In those cases, ORR will consider an alternative placement. An ORR Supervisor and ORR Project Officer must approve these placements.
ORR must approve all transfers and releases while a child or youth is in its custody, except in emergency situations where a care provider may temporarily transfer placement of an unaccompanied alien child. In these emergency situations the care provider must notify ORR of the transfer within 8 hours.
As mandated by law, ORR places an unaccompanied alien child in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interests of the child.
When making a placement determination or recommendation, ORR and care providers consider the following factors as they pertain to the child or youth:
- Trafficking or other safety concerns
- Any special needs or issues requiring specialized services (for example, a child with language needs, mental health or medical concerns, or a youth who is pregnant or parenting)
- Possibility of heightened vulnerability to sexual abuse due to prior sexual victimization
- Prior sexual abusiveness
- Identification as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or intersex, or gender non-conforming appearance or manner
- Location of potential sponsor and family sponsorship options
- Siblings in ORR custody
- Immigration issues (for example, legal representation needs, immigration proceedings)
- Criminal or juvenile background
- Danger to self
- Danger to the community
- Escape risk
- Length of stay in ORR custody
- Location where the child or youth was apprehended
Whenever possible, ORR places a child with special needs in a facility serving the general population but that is able to provide services and treatment for special needs. In all instances, ORR strives for a least restrictive setting in the best interests of the child.
For children in the following special situations, ORR gives priority for transitional foster care placements to:
- Children who are under 13 years of age
- Sibling groups with one sibling under 13 years of age
- Teens who are pregnant or are parenting
- Children or youth with other special needs
The safety and well-being of a child or youth is a primary consideration in placement decisions. Issues related to safety include a child or youth being fearful of others, such as specific individuals who would seek to harm or exploit the child (e.g., smugglers, traffickers, drug cartels, or other organized crime groups), and a child or youth who is a material witness or a victim of crime. ORR collaborates with law enforcement officials on the placement of an unaccompanied alien child who has information that may be relevant to a criminal proceeding (e.g., “material witness”).
ORR has two levels of care for unaccompanied alien children who are assessed to be a danger to themselves or others, have a criminal history, or require close supervision. Staff secure facilities provide a heightened level of staff supervision, increased communication, and services to control problem behavior and prevent escape. Secure facilities are for youth who require the strictest level of supervision. Secure care providers have a secure perimeter, major restraining construction inside the facility, and procedures typically associated with correctional facilities.
ORR may place youth in a staff secure or a secure setting either at initial placement or through a transfer to another facility from the initial placement. ORR provides the youth notice of the reasons for placement in a secure or staff secure facility.
If a child has a severe mental health issue in addition to serious behavioral concerns or criminal/delinquent history warranting placement into a restrictive level of care, ORR may place the youth in a residential treatment center (RTC) or other therapeutic setting. ORR provides the youth notice of the reasons for placement in a RTC or therapeutic setting.
Secure Care Facility
ORR only places an unaccompanied alien child in a secure facility if the child:
- poses a danger to self or others; or
- has been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, or is chargeable with such an offense.
In determining whether to place a youth in secure care, ORR considers if the unaccompanied alien child:
- Has been charged with a crime, is chargeable with a crime, or has been convicted of a crime; or is the subject of delinquency proceedings, has been adjudicated delinquent, or is chargeable with a delinquent act; and assesses whether the crimes or delinquent acts were:
- isolated offenses that (1) were not within a pattern or practice of criminal activity and (2) did not involve violence against a person, or the use or carrying of a weapon (e.g., breaking and entering, vandalism, DUI, status offenses, etc.); or
- petty offenses which are not considered grounds for a stricter means of detention in any case (e.g., shoplifting, joy riding, disturbing the peace).
- Has committed, or has made credible threats, to commit a violent or malicious act while in ORR custody;
- Has committed, threatened to commit, or engaged in serious, self-harming behavior that poses a danger to self while in ORR custody;
- Has engaged in conduct that has proven to be unacceptably disruptive of the normal functioning of a staff secure facility in which the youth is placed such that transfer may be necessary to ensure the welfare of the UAC or others;
- Has self-disclosed violent criminal history in ORR custody that requires further assessment; or
- Has a history of or displays sexual predatory behavior, or has engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior.
Staff Secure Facility
A staff secure facility is a licensed child care facility for UAC who require close supervision, but do not require placement in a secure care provider facility.
In determining whether to place a youth in a staff secure facility, ORR considers if the child:
- has been unacceptably disruptive to the normal functioning of a shelter care provider facility such that transfer is necessary to ensure the welfare of the UAC or others;
- is an escape risk;
- Has reported gang involvement (including prior to placement into ORR custody) or displays gang affiliation while in care;
- has non-violent criminal or delinquent history not warranting placement in a secure care provider facility, such as isolated or petty offenses as described above; or
- Is ready for step-down from a secure facility. For details on the criteria for step-down from a secure facility, see section 1.4.2.
ORR does not place a child or youth in secure care solely because he or she may pose a risk of escape from ORR custody. However, ORR may place a child in a staff secure facility solely because he or she poses a risk of escape. In all cases, ORR must assess whether an unaccompanied alien child is an escape risk in order to make an informed placement decision.
Indicators of escape risk include:
- The unaccompanied alien child has displayed behaviors indicative of escape or has expressed intent to escape.
- The unaccompanied alien child is within one month of turning 18 years of age.
- The unaccompanied alien child has previously escaped or attempted to escape from detention or government custody.
- An unaccompanied alien child with an immigration history that includes:
- A final order of removal (UAC has a legal duty to report for deportation);
- A prior breach of a bond;
- Failure to appear before Department of Homeland Security or the immigration courts;
- Previous repatriation (return to the home country) through a grant of voluntary departure or a final order of removal from an immigration judge.
An unaccompanied alien child may be placed in a long term care setting, such as community based foster care or extended care group homes. A child is a candidate for long term care if he or she:
- Is expected to have a protracted stay of four months or more in ORR custody because he or she does not have a viable sponsor, AND
- A legal service provider has identified the child or youth as potentially eligible for immigration relief (unless waived by ORR),1 AND
- Is under the age of 17 and 6 months at the time of placement.
ORR also considers a long term care placement on a case-by-case basis for an unaccompanied alien child who will have a longer stay due to other circumstances.
ORR considers the following when making long term placement decisions:
- The child’s mental, emotional, behavioral, and physical health needs
- The child’s ability and commitment to live in a family and community-based setting
- The child’s age
- Availability of an appropriate placement that meets the individual’s needs
Unaccompanied alien children who are ineligible for long term placement include:
- An unaccompanied alien child with a moderate to high escape risk
- An unaccompanied alien child with a history of significant criminal activity or violence who may pose a threat of harm to self, others (including the foster family), or community
- A child or youth who is seeking voluntary departure
However, a child or youth with past behavioral or safety concerns but who does not pose a threat to self, others (including the foster family) or the community may be considered for long term foster care after demonstrating safe behavior in a non-secure setting.
Under most circumstances, ORR places siblings together and unaccompanied alien children who are parents with their children. The following cases would be an exception to family grouping:
- The unaccompanied alien child wishes otherwise (evaluated on a case-by-case basis)
- The placement would be contrary to the developmental, treatment, or safety needs of the unaccompanied alien child or his or her children
- There is an unusual or emergency situation
In addition to the ones listed above, there are other exceptional circumstances that would prevent unaccompanied alien youth from residing with their children in the same care provider facility. These circumstances include an unaccompanied alien child who is a parent who:
- Requires specialized placement in a setting that cannot provide appropriate care for an infant or young child; for example, a residential treatment center or hospital
- Does not want his or her child to reside in the same place
- Is the subject of open or substantiated allegations of abuse or neglect against his or her child
If siblings or children of an unaccompanied alien child must be placed separately, the care provider tries to maintain regular ongoing contact, unless a mental health or child welfare professional deems the contact harmful, or unless the contact is contrary to the wishes of the UAC.
The separation of an unaccompanied alien child from his or her siblings or from his or her child requires prior authorization of ORR.
Unaccompanied alien children may be referred by Federal agencies to ORR’s care at any time. ORR’s Intakes Team operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year round to accept referrals and find a placement for children and youth within ORR’s network of care providers.
As a first step, ORR requests background information from the referring Federal agency to assess whether the unaccompanied alien child is a danger to self or others, whether there are any known medical and/or mental health issues, and whether other special concerns or needs are known. ORR uses this information to determine an appropriate placement for the minor in the least restrictive setting.
ORR requests the following information from the referring agency:
- How the referring agency made the determination that the minor is an unaccompanied alien child.
- Health related information including, but not limited to, if the unaccompanied alien child is pregnant or parenting and whether there are any known physical or mental health concerns. If there are significant medical concerns (i.e., the unaccompanied alien child is not fit for travel), ORR requests that the referring Federal agency medically clear the child before ORR will designate placement. In its discretion, ORR may designate placement for unaccompanied alien children who are pending medical clearance.
- Whether the child has any medication or prescription information, including how many days’ supply of the medication will be provided with the child or youth when transferred into ORR custody.
- Biographical and biometric information, such as name, gender, alien number, date of birth, country of birth and nationality, date(s) of entry and apprehension, place of entry and apprehension, manner of entry, and the unaccompanied alien child’s current location.
- Any information concerning whether the child or youth is a victim of trafficking or other crimes.
- Whether the unaccompanied alien child was apprehended with a sibling or other relative.
- Identifying information and contact information for a parent, legal guardian, or other related adult providing care for the child or youth prior to apprehension, if known.
- If the unaccompanied alien child was apprehended in transit to a final destination, what the final destination was and who the child or youth planned to meet or live with at that destination, if known.
- Whether the unaccompanied alien child is an escape risk, and if so, the escape risk indicators.
- Any information on a history of violence, juvenile or criminal background, or gang involvement known or suspected, risk of danger to self or others, State court proceedings, and probation.
- If the child is being returned to ORR custody after arrest on alleged gang affiliation or involvement, ORR requests all documentation confirming whether the child is a Saravia class member and information on the Saravia hearing, including the date and time.
- Any special needs or other information that would affect the care and placement for the child or youth.
The ORR/Intakes Team identifies appropriate and available bed space at a care provider, the ORR funded facility or other setting that provides care for the child, and contacts the care provider to confirm availability. ORR attempts to identify and designate a placement for the unaccompanied alien child within 24 hours of the initial referral whenever possible.
In cases where a child or youth may present a danger to self or others, ORR staff use a standardized checklist (the “Intakes Placement Checklist”) to input all available information on the unaccompanied alien child’s history and condition.
The ORR/Intakes Team uses the Intakes Placement Checklist if the unaccompanied alien child has:
- A juvenile or adult criminal history, including involvement in human trafficking or smuggling
- Prior acts of violence or threats in government custody
- Gang/cartel involvement
- Prior escape(s) or attempted escape(s) from government custody
- Mental health concerns
- Sexual predatory behavior
Based on the responses, the Intakes Team member recommends a level of care for the unaccompanied alien child. The ORR/Intakes Team reviews the Intakes Placement Checklist with an ORR/FFS Supervisor. The ORR/FFS Supervisor makes a final placement decision on the level of care, and the Intakes Team designates the unaccompanied alien child’s placement.
For placement of an alien unaccompanied alien child with medical or mental health issues, the ORR/Intakes Team consults with the ORR/FFS, the ORR/Medical Services Team, or an ORR Supervisor on the placement. As discussed in Section 1.4.6 Residential Treatment Center Placement, a UAC with serious mental health issues may only be placed into a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) if the youth is determined to be a danger to self or others by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.
After ORR requests a placement in a particular facility, the care provider may only deny ORR’s request for placement based on the following reasons:
- Lack of available bed space.
- Placement of the unaccompanied alien child would conflict with the care provider’s State or local licensing rules.
- Placement of an unaccompanied alien child with a significant physical or mental illness for which the referring Federal agency does not provide a medical clearance and/or medications that would conflict with the care provider’s State or local licensing requirements.
ORR may follow up with a facility about a placement denial, if needed, to find a solution to the reason for the denial.
The referring Federal agency generally transports the unaccompanied alien child to the ORR care provider. ORR takes custody of the unaccompanied alien child when the child physically arrives at the designated ORR care provider.
Upon arrival, the care provider requests from the referring Federal agency the unaccompanied alien child’s prescriptions and medications, as applicable; personal belongings, and any necessary Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or other Federal agency documentation.
If exceptional circumstances prevent the referring Federal agency from providing complete documentation, the care provider may not deny or delay admitting the child or youth.
If a care provider receives a child or youth with special concerns that were not reported in the referral, the care provider must contact ORR immediately.
Historically, ORR has experienced periods when DHS apprehends a significantly greater number of unaccompanied alien children than at other times of the year. These periodic intervals are called an “influx.” In addition to an influx, a natural disaster or other emergency may prevent the prompt (within 24 hours), initial placement of unaccompanied alien children in care provider facilities.
ORR has procedures in place to make sure that care providers are available to accommodate these influx intervals and make initial placements as quickly as possible while successfully providing the range of services that ORR requires for every unaccompanied alien child.
ORR annually reviews its contingency plans based on the actual and anticipated number of unaccompanied alien children referrals to monitor available resources in light of expected needs.
For more information, see 1.7 Placement and Operations During an Influx.
For cases in which ORR determines that a UAC was previously in ORR custody and was properly referred to ORR on a second occasion, ORR/Intakes verifies the referring agency’s determination of Saravia class eligibility.
A UAC is a member of the Saravia class if he or she:
- Was previously in ORR custody;
- ORR released them to a sponsor; and
- Was sent to ORR by a referring agency at least partially on the basis of alleged gang affiliation or involvement.
In such cases, and where the child is properly re-referred to ORR custody as a UAC, the ORR/Intakes verifies Saravia class membership and attempts to obtain documentation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirming the following (while continuing with the placement process):
- that the unaccompanied alien child was provided notice of a Saravia hearing within 48 hours of arrest;
- that the notice included information explaining the purpose and nature of proceedings and the specific acts or conduct alleged; and
- that the Saravia hearing either has already occurred, is scheduled to occur within 10 days of arrest by the referring agency, or that the unaccompanied alien child waived the 10 day hearing requirement in order to retain an attorney.
ORR does not delay the initial placement of possible Saravia class members into an appropriate ORR care provider program during the screening process (see Section 1.3.2 ORR Placement Designation). ORR shall place Saravia class members in the least restrictive setting that is appropriate for the individual child.
ORR does not place Saravia class members in a restrictive setting (e.g., staff secure, secure, RTC) solely based on alleged gang affiliation or involvement that is the basis for Saravia class membership.
Because an unaccompanied alien child’s placement needs can change, the care provider conducts ongoing assessments of his or her needs throughout the child or youth’s stay in ORR custody. Care providers also take into consideration information from the referring Federal entity, child assessment tools, interviews, location of the child’s sponsor or family in the U.S., records from local, State, and Federal agencies, and information from stakeholders, including the child’s legal service provider, attorney of record or Child Advocate, as applicable, when making transfer recommendations.
If an alternate placement would better meet the child’s individual needs, care providers must promptly make transfer recommendations—within 3 days of identifying the need for a transfer for routine transfers and immediately in urgent situations.
The Case Coordinator identifies the most appropriate care provider based upon the individual’s needs and the bed capacity within the ORR network.
Once the Federal Field Specialist approves a transfer request, the referring and receiving care providers coordinate logistics, including the transfer date (generally within 3 days). The referring care provider notifies all designated stakeholders of the transfer (for example, the child’s attorney).
Care providers must make every effort to place and keep children and youth in a least restrictive setting. For children who are initially placed in a least restrictive setting, care providers must provide support services and effective interventions, when appropriate, to help keep a child in the setting.
If a child or youth is placed in a restrictive setting, care providers provide services to facilitate the unaccompanied alien child’s successful transfer to a less restrictive setting to allow the child to move when he or she is ready.
At the time of referral, the ORR/Intakes Team in collaboration with an ORR/FFS Supervisor uses a standardized Intakes Placement Checklist to determine the initial placement of an unaccompanied alien child with a juvenile or criminal background, violent offenses, serious behavioral concerns, and/or potential for escape. See 1.3.2. ORR Placement Designation.
At least every 30 days, the care provider staff, in collaboration with the Case Coordinator and the ORR/FFS, reviews the placement of a UAC into a secure, staff secure, or RTC facility to determine whether a new level of care is more appropriate. The ORR/FFS may allow the review to take place earlier than 30 days, particularly if new information indicates an alternative placement is more appropriate. The care provider staff documents the basis for continued placement in a secure staff secure, or RTC facility in the UAC’s case file and provides the information to the youth’s attorney of record, legal service provider, or Child Advocate, on demand. The FFS consults with Supervisory ORR staff for UAC who have resided in a secure or RTC care facility for over 90 days. The FFS consults with Supervisory ORR staff regarding the placement every 30 days thereafter until the UAC is stepped down or discharged. A UAC may only remain in a RTC placement if a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist has determined that they are a danger to themselves or others. See 1.4.6. Residential Treatment Center Placements.
An unaccompanied alien child does not require a review of a secure, staff secure, or RTC placement if he or she is in custody for less than one month from the date of the initial placement designation to the date of his/her 18th birthday. Children and youth who are in ORR care less than 30 days do not require a review of their placement.
Step-ups and Step-downs
Step-ups and step-downs refer to the transfers within the ORR network of care to a more restrictive level of care or to a less restrictive level of care, respectively.
Step-ups may occur when a more restrictive level of care is needed for the safety of the UAC or others. The care provider Case Manager, Case Coordinator and ORR/FFS staff the case to determine whether the UAC’s behavior, criminal history, or self-disclosures require placement in a more restrictive environment, using the factors identified in section 1.2.4.
If a UAC self-discloses criminal or violent history to other UAC or to care provider staff, ORR investigates the veracity of the claim with the assistance of the care provider. ORR may contact federal, state and local law enforcement to determine the veracity of the self-disclosed criminal history and request assistance in contacting foreign law enforcement agencies where alleged crimes or incidents took place outside of the United States. ORR may also work with mental health professionals and other specialists as appropriate to determine whether the UAC’s claims are credible.
Step-downs may occur when ORR, in its discretion, determines the UAC no longer poses a danger to himself or others, or no longer presents an escape risk (for staff secure step downs only). ORR also takes into consideration the immigration judge’s decision in a bond hearing about the youth’s level of danger when assessing the youth’s placement and conditions of placement. See, 2.9. Bond Hearings for Unaccompanied Alien Children. In making a step-down decision, ORR considers criteria identified in making a secure placement and takes into consideration any mitigating factors based on an assessment of the UAC’s current functioning and behavior, previous conduct, self-disclosures, and criminal/delinquent history. The care provider documents the underlying assessment used to make this determination in the UAC’s case file.
UAC determined to have sexual predatory behavior may not be stepped down below staff secure unless the ORR/FFS and the receiving care provider can document specific steps to protect other UAC, staff, and the community.
If the care provider and ORR/FFS determine that a new level of care is appropriate, the care provider must use the ORR process for transferring the youth to another care provider. The care provider must notify within a reasonable period of time DHS, the youth’s attorney of record, legal service provider, and/or Child Advocate and, if applicable, apply for a change of address or change of venue for a timely and safe transport.
The care provider documents the basis for stepping up or stepping down a UAC into or from a secure or staff secure care provider in the UAC’s case file and provides the information to the youth’s attorney of record, legal service provider, or Child Advocate, on demand. When a UAC is stepped up to a more restrictive setting (secure, staff-secure or RTC facility), he/she is provided with a Notice of Placement in Restrictive Setting in a language that he/she understands within a reasonable time either before or after ORR’s placement decision.
In some cases, unaccompanied alien children stay in ORR custody for 4 months or more. ORR considers a stay of 4 months or longer to be an “extended stay” case. Extended stay cases generally occur due to the following combination of factors:
- The child or youth has no viable sponsor AND
- A legal service provider or attorney has screened the child or youth as eligible for immigration relief, OR
- Another reason prevents return of the unaccompanied alien child to the home country, such as the child’s country of origin is in a state of emergency, indicating that the child will likely not be repatriated for an extended period of time.
If there is an indication that an unaccompanied alien child may fall into this extended stay category, the care provider makes a recommendation to ORR regarding long term care placement. Care providers try to minimize the number of transfers for a child or youth in order to facilitate continuity of relationships with caregivers.
Care providers continue to assess a child or youth placed in long term care to ensure that best efforts are being made to move the unaccompanied alien child toward release from ORR custody into a more permanent arrangement.
Foster care providers must ensure that each child is placed in a licensed foster home and consider the child’s cultural and linguistic needs when making placements.
Prior to a transfer to long term foster care, the care providers must notify all stakeholders. Of particular importance, the long term foster care provider informs the legal service providers from the referring placement as well as those in the receiving placement to ensure arrangements are made for legal services, including representation, for the child in the new jurisdiction.
Notifications to stakeholders are required of any transfer in the ORR care provider network.
Group transfers may occur because of changes in a care provider’s bed capacity, through changes in program requirements that would eliminate a care provider from the list of approved facilities, or through an emergency event or natural disaster. ORR tries to minimize the number of transfers resulting from bed capacity limitations. ORR considers the circumstances of the individual unaccompanied alien child’s case, including the progress of the sponsorship effort and the status of the legal case, when identifying children and youth for group transfers.
Care providers request a transfer to an RTC for an unaccompanied alien child who has a psychiatric or psychological issue that cannot be addressed in an outpatient setting.
A UAC may only be placed into an RTC if the youth is determined to be a danger to self or others by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. In assessing dangerousness, ORR uses the criteria for secure placement in section 1.2.4. In addition, ORR will consider a transfer to an RTC only if a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist has determined the following:
- The unaccompanied alien child has not shown reasonable progress in the alleviation of his/her mental health symptoms after a significant period of time in outpatient treatment. (Note: the amount of time within which progress should be demonstrated varies by mental health diagnosis).
- The child’s behavior is a result of his/her underlying mental health symptoms and/or diagnosis and cannot be managed in an outpatient setting.
- The unaccompanied alien child requires therapeutic-based intensive supervision as a result of mental health symptoms and/or diagnosis that prevent him or her from independent participation in the daily schedule of activities.
- The child presents a continued and real risk of harm to self, others, or the community, despite the implementation of short-term clinical interventions (such as, medications, a brief psychiatric hospitalization, intensive counseling, behavioral management techniques, 24 hour supervision, supportive services or therapeutic services).
After 30 days of placement in a secure or RTC facility, UAC may request the ORR Director, or the Director’s designee, to reconsider their placement. The ORR Director, or designee, may deny the request, remand the request to the ORR/FFS for further consideration, or approve the request and order the youth transferred to a staff secure or other care provider facility.
For a Saravia class member (see Section 1.3.6 Saravia Intakes Screening and Placement Determinations for a definition of class membership) who does not prevail in his or her Saravia hearing — meaning an immigration judge has ruled that the minor is a danger to self or others and/or a flight risk and must remain in ORR care and custody — ORR follows its standard policies and procedures for transfer of the UAC (see Section 1.4 Transfers within the ORR Care Provider Network).
Conversely, if a Saravia class member returns to ORR custody after having prevailed at his or her Saravia hearing, the UAC is placed in a shelter if there is a shelter where the care provider is willing and able to accept the child. If the UAC was in ORR custody in a restrictive setting (i.e. secure, staff secure, or residential treatment center) prior to prevailing at the Saravia hearing and cannot be released to the minor’s prior sponsor (see Section 2.8.7 Release of Saravia Class Members), the minor must be transferred to a shelter facility if there is such a facility able and willing to accept the minor.
Likewise, for a Saravia class member who prevailed at his or her Saravia hearings, ORR does not use the previous allegations of gang affiliation or involvement that led to the arrest by a federal agency as the basis for placement in a restrictive setting, or to delay release (see Section 2.8.7 Release of Saravia Class Members).
Individuals looking for an unaccompanied alien child who may be in ORR custody may contact the ORR National Call Center, at 1 (800) 203-7001, and leave a message that includes the unaccompanied alien child’s information, caller’s name, contact information, and relationship to the child or youth.(This hotline is operated by an ORR grantee.)
The ORR National Call Center staff reviews the information to see if the unaccompanied alien child is currently in ORR custody. The call center staff contacts the caller and notifies him or her whether or not the child or youth is in ORR custody, taking safety issues into consideration, as described below.
If the unaccompanied alien child is in ORR custody, the call center staff does not provide information to the caller regarding where the child or youth is located or with which care provider until communication is deemed safe and appropriate.
The steps in the process include:
- The call center staff notifies the corresponding care provider with the caller’s name, contact information and relationship to the unaccompanied alien child.
- The care provider determines whether the individual is a safe and approved contact. As deemed appropriate and following ORR’s procedures, the care provider may facilitate communication between the caller and the unaccompanied alien child.
- The care provider contacts the individual and informs him/her that the unaccompanied alien child is safe and in ORR custody.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) instructs HHS to devise age determination procedures for individuals without lawful immigration status in consultation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). To carry out the TVPRA provision, HHS and DHS worked jointly to develop the age determination policies and procedures in this section.
Typically, DHS is the agency that apprehends individuals without lawful immigration status, including unaccompanied alien children (UAC), while HHS is the agency responsible for the care and custody of UAC transferred to its care. HHS authority to provide care and custody applies only to individuals who have not attained 18 years of age.
Each agency acknowledges the challenges in determining the age of individuals in custody. These challenges include, but are not limited to:
- Unavailable documentation;
- Contradictory or fraudulent identity documentation and/or statements;
- Physical appearance of the individual; and
- Diminished capacity of the individual.
The TVPRA requires the age determination procedures, at a minimum, to take into account multiple forms of evidence. Accordingly, under these procedures, each case must be evaluated carefully based on the totality of all available evidence, including the statement of the individual in question.
HHS may make age determinations of UAC when they are in HHS custody on a reasonable suspicion that a child in HHS custody is 18 years or older.
In the event there is conflicting evidence regarding the age of an unaccompanied alien child in HHS custody, the HHS funded care provider case worker shall immediately notify the HHS Federal Field Specialist (FFS). The FFS will make the age determination based on his/her review of the multiple forms of evidence collected by the care provider. Until the age determination is made, the unaccompanied alien child is entitled to all services provided to UAC in HHS care and custody.
There may be occasions when an unaccompanied alien child's age is questioned at the time of admission to an HHS funded care provider facility during the intakes process. In those cases, the case manager does not complete the intakes process, but consults with the HHS FFS to make the age determination.
Case managers should seek the following as evidence when conducting age determinations. Information from each category is not required.
- Official government-issued documents, including birth certificates. If the unaccompanied alien child in question is not in possession of original documentation, or if the authenticity of the original documentation is in question, government officials of the unaccompanied alien child's home country must be consulted in order to verify the validity of the documentation.
- Other reliable records (e.g., baptismal certificates, school records, medical records) that indicate the unaccompanied alien child's date of birth.
Statements by individuals (including the unaccompanied alien child) determined to have personal knowledge of the unaccompanied alien child's age, and who HHS concludes can credibly attest to the age of the unaccompanied alien child:
- Statements provided by the unaccompanied alien child regarding his or her age or birth date. (An unaccompanied alien child's uncorroborated declaration regarding age is not used as the sole basis for an age determination.)
- Statements from the unaccompanied alien child's parent(s) or legal guardian(s), if such persons can be identified and contacted.
- Statements from other persons.
- Information from another government agency (Federal, State, local or foreign)
- State/local arrest records.
- Child welfare agency records.
Medical Age Assessments:
Medical Age Assessments include both the use of imaging technology, such as radiography, and physical examinations. Regarding these assessments:
- A medical professional experienced in age assessment method(s) must perform the examination, taking into account the individual’s ethnic and genetic background.
- Dental and skeletal (bone) maturity assessments using radiographs may be used to determine age, but only in conjunction with other evidence.
- As no current medical assessment method can determine an exact age, best practice relies on the estimated probability that an individual is 18 or older. The examining doctor must submit a written report indicating the probability percentage that the individual is a minor or an adult.
ORR Response to Medical Age Assessments:
- The FFS supervisor must review the determination regarding the age submitted by the examining doctor.
- If an individual’s estimated probability of being 18 or older is 75 percent or greater according to a medical age assessment, and this evidence has been considered in conjunction with the totality of the evidence, ORR may refer the individual to DHS. The 75 percent probability threshold applies to all medical methods and approaches identified by the medical community as appropriate methods for assessing age.
- The FFS compiles all pertinent information (e.g., how reasonable suspicion was raised that the subject is over 18, the information referenced, the individuals or agencies consulted, statements and conclusions) and documents it in a memorandum for review and approval by the FFS Supervisor.
- The FFS then will forward the memo to the care provider facility case manager to be included in the unaccompanied alien child's case file and to the ICE Detention and Removal Office (DRO) Field Office Juvenile Coordinator (FOJC) for inclusion in the unaccompanied alien child's A-file.
At any time, an unaccompanied alien child in ORR care or his/her designated legal representative may present new information or evidence that he/she is 18 or older for re-evaluation of an age determination. New information will be reviewed and evaluated by the FFS and, if necessary, the FFS Supervisor, in a timely manner and shared with the DRO FOJC to determine if the current placement is appropriate. If the new information or evidence indicates that an individual who is presumed to be an unaccompanied alien child is actually an adult, then HHS will coordinate with the assigned FOJC to immediately transfer the individual to an adult DRO facility.
1.7 Placement and Operations During an Influx [REPEALED]
Policies related to influx care facilities are found at Section 7 of this Policy Guide
1.7.1 Activation of HPCs[REPEALED]
1.7.2 Placement into HPCs [REPEALED]
1.7.3 Placement into Influx Care Facilities [REPEALED]
1.7.4 Admission and Orientation for HPCs and Influx Care Facilities [REPEALED]
1.7.5 Medical Services [REPEALED]
1.7.6 HPC and Influx Care Facility Services [REPEALED]
1.7.7 Transportation During Influx [REPEALED]
1.7.8 Federal Staffing Plan [REPEALED]
1. Other circumstances which would result in a longer stay, such as the child’s country of origin is in a state of emergency, indicating that the child will likely not be repatriated for an extended period of time.