The Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) commitment to helping refugees and other vulnerable populations — including asylees, Cuban/Haitian entrants, unaccompanied refugee minors, victims of torture, unaccompanied children, victims of human trafficking, and repatriated U.S. citizens — remains as strong as ever. ORR understands that refugees have inherent capabilities and it strives to provide
the benefits and services necessary to help refugees and other vulnerable populations become self sufficient and integrated members of American society. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, ORR served thousands of vulnerable populations through its various grants and services, administered at the state government level and via non-profit organizations, within an extensive public-private partnership network.
Following ORR’s Six Guiding Principles, the focus of the agency remained a client-centered one. As it has since their original release, ORR concentrated its efforts in FY 2013 on programs designed to support the most vulnerable and often-marginalized persons: single mothers; lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender (LGBT) refugees; survivors of torture and human trafficking, and unaccompanied minors.
Refugee health was the top priority for the beginning of FY 2013, specifically as it related to preparing the refugee resettlement network for full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in January 2014. ORR issued revised guidance on reporting requirements for the ORR-1 and State Plan submissions (State Letters 12-13 and 13-03). The new Division of Refugee Health produced and posted a video, “Refugees and the Affordable Care Act”, available in six languages; created a fact sheet and hosted several webinars, and collaborated with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to translate the Marketplace consumer application into 15 different languages relevant to refugees.
These materials can be found on the ORR website, along with several other resources to facilitate refugees’ access to quality health care.
Outreach to stakeholders remained a key priority for the office, to support and facilitate strategic placement and successful integration of refugees in our communities. In FY 2013, as in previous years, we promoted collaboration at the local level by participating in joint stakeholder meetings with our counterparts at the State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). ORR leadership joined PRM’s Director of Admissions in meeting with city and state officials, health providers, local resettlement agencies, ethnic community leaders, and refugees in Georgia, Arizona, Maine, and California.
As reinforcement of ORR’s guiding principles of outreach and robust information dissemination, the Division of Refugee Assistance (DRA) created a peer exchange for State Refugee Coordinators and Refugee Health Coordinators, to share local policies and practices via bi-monthly teleconferences. ORR facilitated calls on community-based case studies, including the following topics in FY 2013: building a responsive mental health system including access and screenings, gaining public support for the refugee program, coordinating individual employment plans, and understanding factors in housing stability.
Marking the first important step to improve outreach and to forge closer working relationships between resettlement stakeholders and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Regional Offices, ORR selected its first two Regional Representatives, assigned to Atlanta, Georgia (ACF Region IV) in August, and Denver, Colorado (ACF Region VIII) in September. We then held a stakeholder meeting in Denver in September to introduce local stakeholders to the regional concept, and to announce the new regional representative in Denver. In addition to their regular state analyst duties, ORR Regional Representatives conduct broad local outreach and engagement with refugees and resettlement stakeholders,and work with federal, state, and local partners to align services and ensure that services are being provided with the best interests of refugees in mind. The Regional Representative model is one that ORR hopes to expand in other key locations.
Expanded engagement also took place across federal partnerships, within ACF and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as across Departments. Collaboration with the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) resulted in several tools and resources for stakeholders, including search by zip code locator tool for service providers, and several webcasts and fact sheets. ORR issued a State Letter (SL 13-04) in August, detailing the collaboration and its results.
After careful consideration in FY 2013, ORR streamlined and prioritized its technical assistance program, focusing on the welcoming of refugees into American communities and non-ORR direct services to refugees, such as the Temporary Assistance for the Needy Families (TANF) program services.
Lastly, as initially reported in FY 2012, the Unaccompanied Children (UC) program continued to receive significant increases in referral numbers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The total referrals for the year reached approximately 25,000—nearly double the total received in FY 2012. A modified FY 2013 projection was realized in December 2012, prompting implementation of streamlined policies and procedures to safely and quickly reunify children with sponsors. During FY 2013, more than 19,000 children were reunified with family members and other sponsors. Increased capacity and streamlining of the reunification process in FY 2013 also helped ORR avoid the need for emergency operations, as had been the case in FY 2012.
Consistent with the mission of the Administration for Children and Families of promoting the economic and social well-being of children, youth, families and communities, ORR remains wholly committed to its humanitarian obligation to serve the most vulnerable populations in this country.