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Children Entering the United States Unaccompanied: Section 1

Placement in ORR Care Provider Facilities

Published: January 30, 2015

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.

Posted 1/27/15

1.2 ORR Standards for Placement and Transfer Decisions

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.

Posted 1/27/15 

1.2.1 Placement Considerations

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)
  • Behavior
  • Criminal or juvenile background
  • Danger to self
  • Danger to the community
  • Escape risk
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Length of stay in ORR custody
  • Location where the child or youth was apprehended

Posted 1/27/15

1.2.2 Children with Special Needs

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

Posted 1/27/15

1.2.3 Safety Issues

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”).

Posted 1/27/15

1.2.4 Secure and Staff Secure Care Provider Facilities

ORR has two levels of care for unaccompanied alien children who are assessed to be a danger to themselves or others, or who have been charged with having committed a criminal offense. 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 mental health issue in addition to behavioral concerns or criminal history warranting placement into a restrictive level of care, ORR may place the youth in a residential treatment center or other therapeutic setting.

Secure Care Facility
ORR only places an unaccompanied alien child in a secure facility if the child:

  1. poses a danger to self or others; or
  2. has been charged with having committed a  criminal offense.

In determining whether to place a youth in secure care, ORR considers if the unaccompanied alien child:

  • Has been charged with, may be chargeable, 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 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 reported gang involvement or displays gang affiliation while in care; 
  • Has self-disclosed violent criminal history or gang involvement prior to placement 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 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 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.

Revised 06/12/2017

1.2.5 Unaccompanied Alien Children Who Pose a Risk of Escape

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.

Revised 6/12/17

1.2.6 ORR Long Term Foster Care

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.

Revised 10/15/15

1.2.7 Placing Family Members (Siblings and Children of Unaccompanied Alien Children)

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 UC.
The separation of an unaccompanied alien child from his or her siblings or from his or her child requires prior authorization of ORR.

Posted 1/27/15

1.3 Referrals to ORR and Initial Placement  

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.

Posted 1/27/15

1.3.1 Request for Information from the Referring Federal Agency

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 child or youth 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.
  • Any special needs or other information that would affect the care and placement for the child or youth.

Posted 1/27/15

1.3.2 ORR Placement Designation

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 tool (the “Placement Tool”) to input all available information on the unaccompanied alien child’s history and condition.

The ORR/Intakes Team uses the Placement Tool if the unaccompanied alien child has:

  • A juvenile or adult criminal history
  • Prior acts of violence or threats in government custody
  • Gang involvement
  • Prior escape(s) or attempted escape(s) from government custody
  • Human Trafficking or Smuggling
  • Drug Smuggling

A placement score is automatically generated based on the answers provided.

Based on the scores, the placement tool will suggest a level of care for the unaccompanied alien child. The ORR/Intakes Team reviews the placement tool, consults with an ORR/FFS Supervisor, selects the level of care, and designates the unaccompanied alien child’s placement. The ORR Intakes Team considers all factors in the placement decision and may, in consultation with other ORR staff, override the score generated by the tool in special circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

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.

Revised 4/22/16

1.3.3 Care Provider Placement Acceptance

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.

Posted 1/27/15

1.3.4 Transfer of Custody to ORR

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.

Posted 1/27/15

1.3.5 Initial Placements in the Event of an Emergency or Influx

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.

Revised 5/5/16

1.4 Transfers within the ORR Care Provider Network

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).

Revised 4/22/16

1.4.1 Least Restrictive Setting

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.

Posted 1/27/15

1.4.2 Further Assessment Swift Track (FAST) Process

At the time of referral, the ORR/Intakes Team uses a standardized “Placement Tool” 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. The results of the Placement Tool may indicate that the child should be placed into secure, staff secure, or shelter level care. The ORR/Intakes staff discusses the Placement Tool outcome with the ORR/FFS. The ORR/FFS may override the placement recommendation of the Placement Tool.

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 or staff secure 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 or staff secure facility in the UAC’s case file and provide the information to the youth’s attorney of record, legal service provider, or Child Advocate, on demand. Supervisory ORR staff review the placement of UAC who have resided in a secure care facility for over 90 days, and continue to review the placement every 30 days thereafter.

An unaccompanied alien child does not require a review of the 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). 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 stakeholders 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.

Revised 06/12/2017

1.4.3 Long Term Care

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.

Posted 1/27/15

1.4.4 Transfer to Long Term Foster Care

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.

Posted 1/27/15

1.4.5 Group Transfers

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.

Revised 4/22/16

1.4.6 Residential Treatment Center Placements

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. ORR will consider a transfer to an RTC if a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist has indicated 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).

Posted 1/27/15

1.4.7 Requesting Reconsideration of a Secure or RTC Placement Designation

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.

Posted 6/12/17

1.5 Placement Inquiries

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.)

Revised 9/06/16

1.5.1 ORR National Call Center

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.

Posted 1/27/15

1.6 Determining the Age of an Individual without Lawful Immigration Status

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 UC 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.

Revised 8/31/15

1.6.1 Unaccompanied Alien Children in HHS Custody

HHS may make age determinations of UC 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 UC 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.

Revised 8/31/15

1.6.2 Instructions

Case managers should seek the following as evidence when conducting age determinations. Information from each category is not required.

Documentation:

  • 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.

Revised 7/05/16

1.7 Placement and Operations During an Influx

As noted in subsection 1.3.5, ORR may experience periods of influx in which the number of unaccompanied alien children coming into the United States exceeds the standard capabilities of ORR to process them timely and to shelter them with existing resources.

During an influx, ORR may not have sufficient bed space available within its licensed care provider network to place unaccompanied alien children. In this situation, ORR arranges for Influx Care Facilities to meet the need.

An Influx Care Facility is a type of care provider facility that is opened to provide temporary emergency shelter and services for UC during an influx or emergency. Because of the temporary and emergency nature of Influx Care Facilities, they may not be licensed or may be exempted from licensing requirements by State and local licensing agencies. Influx Care Facilities may also be opened on Federal properties, in which case, the facility would not be subject to State or local licensing standards.

Certain Influx Care Facilities may require a 72-hour medical waiting period prior to receiving unaccompanied alien children. Therefore, ORR may also activate HHS Processing Centers (HPC) to initially screen and vaccinate children prior to their placement in Influx Care Facilities. Unaccompanied alien children remain in an HPC until they are medically cleared for movement to and placement in an Influx Care Facility. During an influx, ORR also uses HPCs to more efficiently handle the transfer of unaccompanied alien children from DHS border patrol custody into HHS custody.

HPCs must provide the services as described in subsection 1.7.5 and 1.7.6. Standard ORR facilities that are designated as HPCs or as Influx Care Facilities are required to meet the same standards applicable to all ORR State-licensed programs.

Posted 3/21/16

1.7.1 Activation of HPCs

During an influx or in preparation for an influx, ORR may designate some standard ORR facilities or Influx Care Facilities as HPCs. If ORR determines that the re-designated HPCs are not sufficient to manage the number of referrals that need transfer into Influx Care Facilities, ORR may also designate temporary sites as HPCs.

ORR’s goal is to operationalize an HPC within 30 days of the site’s designation so that the HPC can begin processing children for transfer to Influx Care Facilities or standard shelters.

Posted 3/21/16

1.7.2 Placement into HPCs

Upon receipt of a DHS referral during an influx, ORR/Intakes may designate an unaccompanied alien child for initial placement into an HPC or for direct placement into a standard ORR facility or Influx Care Facility.

Unaccompanied alien children designated for an HPC should meet the initial criteria below based on the information available at the time of designation. The unaccompanied alien child should:

  • Be between 13-17 years of age
  • Speak either English or Spanish
  • Have no known behavioral or medical issues, including contagious diseases or health issues requiring immediate evaluation or medical treatment by a healthcare provider
  • Have no known special needs (mental health or identified disabilities)
  • Not be a danger to self or others
  • Not have a criminal history (i.e., not charged with having committed a criminal offense)
  • Not be involved as a perpetrator or victim of smuggling or trafficking activities 
  • Not be subject to a pending age determination
  • Not be part of a sibling group with a sibling(s) age 12 years or younger
  • Not be pregnant or parenting

If ORR becomes aware after placement into an HPC that a child doesn’t meet the criteria above, the FFS covering the site will transfer the unaccompanied alien child to a placement appropriate for his or her needs.

ORR makes every effort to put children who do not meet the criteria above into a standard ORR facility.

Posted 3/21/16

1.7.3 Placement into Influx Care Facilities

Unaccompanied alien children designated for an Influx Care Facility should meet the criteria for placement into HPCs described at section 1.7.2 but must also:

  • Be medically cleared and vaccinated as required by the Influx Care Facility (for instance, if the Influx Care Facility is on a Department of Defense site):
    - Have completed the Medical Checklist for Influx Transfers
    - Have no known medical issues, including contagious diseases or health issues requiring additional evaluation, treatment, or monitoring by a healthcare provider
  • Be able to be discharged from ORR expeditiously
  • Not be involved in an active State licensing, law enforcement, or PREA investigation
  • Not be turning 18 years old within 30 days of the transfer
  • Not be scheduled to be discharged in 3 days or less
  • Not have a pending Home Study
  • Not have a current set docket date in immigration court or State/family court (juvenile included); not have a pending adjustment of legal status; not have an attorney of record

Posted 3/21/16

1.7.4 Admission and Orientation for HPCs and Influx Care Facilities

As expeditiously as possible, but within four (4) hours of an unaccompanied alien child’s placement into the HPC or Influx Care Facility, the provider will:

  • Admit the child to the program in the ORR database.
  • Offer the child a meal and/or snack.
  • Offer the child an opportunity to shower, provide lice treatment, and give clean clothing.
  • Complete an inventory of the child’s belongings and DHS paperwork.

Within twenty-four (24) hours, the HPC or Influx Care provider:

  • Provides the UC with all documents from the Legal Resource Guide
  • Explains to the child or youth the HPC:
    - Rules and responsibilities;
    - Grievance procedures;
    - Sexual abuse reporting procedures.
  • Completes the Initial Intakes Assessment in the ORR database.
  • Contacts the child’s family (following safety protocols) to notify them of the child’s placement and determines if the child has a potential sponsor who resides in the United States.
  • Informs the child’s family about the application process for the Safe and Timely Release of an unaccompanied alien child to a sponsor (See Section 2.2.4 Required Documents for Submission with the Application for Release).
  • Informs the child’s parent/legal guardian and identified potential sponsor that the placement is temporary and that when the child is transferred to a final ORR placement, the parent/legal guardian and potential sponsor will be notified.

Posted 3/21/16

1.7.5 Medical Services

HPCs and Influx Care Facilities must at a minimum provide medical services that include the following:

  • Initial medical examination (unless the youth was recently examined at another facility), including but not limited to: vaccinations per the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices catch-up immunization schedule, tuberculosis screening, and pregnancy tests for all eligible females; (ORR provides HPCs the latest guidance with specific requirements and billing codes.)
  • Emergency health care;
  • Other medical care, as needed;
  • Administration of prescribed medication and special diets; and
  • Mental health interventions when necessary.

HPCs must complete the initial medical examination within 24 hours of the unaccompanied alien child’s admission, including weekends and holidays. Influx Care Facilities must complete the initial medical examination within 48 hours, per section 3.4.2.

When the unaccompanied alien child is transferred, the HPC or Influx Care provider must transfer all medical documents, including immunization records.

Posted 3/21/16

1.7.6 HPC and Influx Care Facility Services

At the minimum, HPCs and Influx Care Facilities must follow the required basic standards of care, including: 

  • Maintain facilities that are safe and sanitary;
  • Provide access to toilets, sinks, and showers;
  • Provide drinking water and food;
  • Maintain adequate temperature control and ventilation;
  • Provide adequate supervision;
  • Provide same gender supervision for any area where unaccompanied alien children regularly undress, including restrooms and showers;
  • Provide unaccompanied alien children with appropriate clothing and personal grooming items;
  • Provide unaccompanied alien children a reasonable access to privacy, which includes the opportunity to wear his or her own clothes, as appropriate; retain a space for storage of personal belongings; talk privately on the phone, as appropriate; visit privately with guests, as appropriate; and receive and send uncensored mail unless there is a reasonable belief that the mail contains contraband;
  • Separate unaccompanied alien children who are subsequently found to have past criminal/juvenile history and/or who exhibit behavior that presents a danger to themselves or to others from other unaccompanied alien children;
  • Adhere to a zero tolerance policy towards sexual abuse and assault per ORR regulations and policy;
  • Adhere to ORR policy and procedures on significant incident and sexual abuse reporting and follow-up;
  • Allow reasonable access to legal services providers or unaccompanied alien children’s attorneys of record that have provided proper documentation, subject to time and place restrictions;
  • Provide for either an in-person Know Your Rights presentation by a legal service provider or video Know Your Rights presentation;
  • Provide case management services for safe and timely release;
  • Follow ORR transport policies;
  • Allow access to religious services, if available;
  • Provide emergency clinical services;
  • Comply with reporting requirements as specified by ORR in consultation with HPC and Influx Care Facility providers;
  • Provide children the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation; and
  • Keep children free from any cruel, harsh, unnecessary, demeaning or humiliating punishment.

To the extent practicable, non-State licensed HPCs and Influx Care Facilities are encouraged to provide the following services:

  • Educational services; and
  • Daily Recreational/Leisure time that includes one hour of large muscle activity and one hour of structured leisure time activities.

Posted 3/21/16

1.7.7 Transportation During Influx

In order to facilitate and expedite the additional transportation of children from HPCs to Influx Care Facilities, ORR may require transportation services to be provided by grantees or through task orders to contractors.

The HPC must coordinate with the assigned Federal staff to ensure that unaccompanied alien children are transferred expeditiously from designation for transfer or release. The HPC must also communicate any transportation related changes in a timely manner.

The care provider must consult with ORR/FFS if the proposed transportation plan involves 8 hours or more travel time for an unaccompanied alien child.

Posted 3/21/16

1.7.8 Federal Staffing Plan

To facilitate operations for Influx Care Facilities and any temporary HPC sites, ORR will identify Federal staff to deploy to each Influx Care Facility to oversee the implementation of all policies and procedures during the duration of their use.

Posted 3/21/16


Footnotes

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.


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Last Reviewed: June 23, 2017