The Unaccompanied Children (UC) Program is managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), an operational division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
By law, HHS has custody and must provide care for each UC, defined as a child who has no lawful immigration status in the United States; has not attained 18 years of age; and, with respect to whom, there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States, or no parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody. See 6 U.S.C. § 279(g)(2).
Under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Congress transferred the care and custody of these minors to ORR from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to move away from the adult detention model. In the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which expanded and redefined HHS’s statutory responsibilities, Congress directed that each child must “be promptly placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child,” subject to considerations of whether the child is a danger to self or others. See 8 U.S.C. § 1232(c)(2).