Consistent with the mission of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of promoting the economic and social well-being of children, youth, families and communities, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) remains wholly committed to its humanitarian obligation to serve the most vulnerable populations in this country. ORR carries out this mission through its various grants and services, administered at the state government level and via non-profit organizations, within an extensive public-private partnership network.
The 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.
Over the past several years, ORR programs have expanded significantly, creating policy and procedural challenges for the office and its partners. ORR operates six multifaceted programs: Unaccompanied Children, Anti-Trafficking in Persons, Refugee Resettlement, Survivors of Torture, Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, and
Repatriation. With the increasing need to manage day-to-day activities and simultaneously develop and interpret policies, regulations, and initiatives, these programs require significant on-going policy development, analysis, and liaison with several federal partners. As a result, ORR created a new, distinct Division of Policy, to advise the Director and Division heads on policy initiatives, and navigate the growing and challenging mandates of these programs.
In FY 2014, ORR continues to receive significant increases in referrals from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The unanticipated rate of referrals required the Unaccompanied Children’s (UC) program to expand physical capacity and staffing through the use of temporary facilities, and stretched funding authorization at a historic rate. In total, ORR placed 57,496 children in 124 facilities in 15 states by the end of the fiscal year. Nearly 20,000 children were placed during May and June alone, representing 34 percent of the annual total for FY 2014.
During the height of the summer influx, ORR coordinated with the Department of Defense (DoD) to use temporary space on three DoD installations (Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Port Hueneme Naval Base in California, and Joint Base San Antonio (Lackland) in Texas). ORR remains grateful for the assistance of DHS and the Department of Defense, which was instrumental in helping ORR attend to the critical protection needs of the children by providing temporary shelter on the three bases.
In FY 2014, the Division of Refugee Health (DRH) launched several key initiatives to support refugee health and wellness, refining ORR’s vision for refugee health. This vision includes refugee health-related outreach and education to the refugee resettlement network, initiated with a Somali women’s health video series, which will be followed by a similar series targeting Congolese women. In on-going response to the high rate of suicides among Bhutanese refugees, DRH created a mental health video set to be released in Spring 2015. DRH also sponsored a Mental Health First Aid training for 120 Bhutanese community leaders, in continuing efforts to address the issue of suicide, and strengthen existing resources within the community.
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 2014, as in previous years, ORR promoted collaboration at the local level by participating in joint stakeholder meetings with its counterparts at the Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). During the year, ORR leadership traveled to meet with a wide range of city and state officials, health providers, local resettlement agencies, ethnic community leaders, and refugees in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and California, in addition to welcoming many others when they visited Washington, DC.
ORR further expanded the Preferred Communities Program to focus on populations needing intensive case management, to include those with special medical and mental health conditions. The program now supports services in 120 locations to ensure those most at risk have a successful path to self-sufficiency.
ORR and its grantee, the Ethnic Community Self Help Program, received several accolades in FY 2014, including recognition from the National Security Council for convening an informational call–and civil society listening session–for U.S. Government principals on the topic of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. Also, during the White House National Convening on Immigrant and Refugee Integration, held in July 2014, ORR current and former grantees Somali Family Service of San Diego, Refugee Family Services, and the Tucson International Alliance of Refugee Communities were recognized for their work to support ethnic communities.
Expanding its return to a regional office structure, ORR added four new regional representatives (RR) in FY 2014: Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas, and San Francisco, California. The new RRs joined those in Atlanta, Georgia and Denver, Colorado, in an initiative that continues to grow. 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 across the country.
ORR has been actively engaged in outreach and partnership efforts to a range of federal entities, including within ACF/HHS. Using a client-centered approach, ORR’s goal is to build partnerships that will better serve refugees and other eligible ORR populations who may otherwise not be considered within mainstream programs and initiatives. Promoting integration by connecting refugees to critical mainstream resources and raising awareness that serving refugees requires a community-wide engagement across this nation; ORR remains fully engaged to this end, and welcomes partnerships to carry out this critical mission.