SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
- Apprehension, Screening, and Referral to the Office of Refugee Resettlement: Department of Homeland Security and its federal agencies should develop both standard and emergency plans for the care of children in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their needs and vulnerabilities, utilizing child welfare professionals and legal service providers, implementing expeditious transfers to the Office of Refugee Resettlement custody, and building in procedural accountability.
- Access to Justice: Congress, the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services should maintain and build upon existing legal protections for unaccompanied children, ensuring that unaccompanied children have access to legal counsel and Child Advocates (guardians ad litem) to protect their legal and best interests, including “Know Your Rights” information, Legal Orientation Programs for Custodians, and access to legal proceedings with substantive and procedural integrity, resulting in legal protection for this vulnerable population and safe repatriation for those who are returned.
- Family Reunification: The Office of Refugee Resettlement and its programming partners should prioritize child protection and safety in reunification decisions by revising assessment tools, improving collaboration, and preparing children and families for successful reunifications.
- Post-Release Services: Congress should mandate, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement should create, a continuum of post-release services so that every child released from the Office of Refugee Resettlement custody receives some level of follow-up contact in order to safeguard children by connecting them with educational, legal, and child welfare resources; Office of Refugee Resettlement and its programming partners should support and engage local community-based service providers that help children and their sponsor caregivers over the longer term so they are equipped to meet the needs of unaccompanied children and their sponsor caregivers.
- Improving Coordination: Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement should develop effective and efficient methods of coordination that place child protection at the center of cooperative efforts and set an example for staff, partners, and stakeholders; non-governmental organizations should proactively seek out areas for collaboration that better serve unaccompanied children and build on existing best practices.
- Oversight and Accountability: Congress, Department of Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services should implement systems of checks and balances through creation of monitoring and compliance systems regarding the Prison Rape Elimination Act, Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act, child protection and human rights, Significant Incident Reports, and Ombudsman’s offices that monitor children’s issues.