ROUNDTABLE REPORT JULY
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.
In late 2013, LIRS launched a Roundtable consultation
process to bring together a wide range of experts on the care
and treatment of unaccompanied children for the purpose of
developing shared principles and informing recommendations
for improvements to the system. Three Roundtable meetings
took place in 2014, with the last occurring against the backdrop
of the dramatic rise in child migration from Central America and
Mexico over the summer of 2014.
With this rise in migration, many of the systems and processes
that had been in place for years were thrown into crisis.
Resource constraints were severe, and at the height of the
crisis, some established legal or child welfare safeguards
were either set aside or compromised. Since then, as the
ﬂow of migration to the United States has abated (at least
temporarily), the child-serving system has continued in a
state of ﬂux, restoring safeguards and practices in some areas,
maintaining measures initiated during the crisis in others, and
in yet other cases, evolving new policies and procedures.
The political climate has also changed with the migration of
Central American children as a ﬂashpoint in the unfolding
debate over immigration policy. Provisions that Congress made
for the protection and care of children in years past are under
new scrutiny and face the possibility of repeal or amendment.
It is against this volatile background that LIRS has prepared
this report with an even more powerful sense of urgency to
ensure that the rights and interests of children are protected.
It should be noted that this report addresses U.S. policies and
procedures towards children who come to the United States
unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian. An equally
compelling policy concern—although one not within the scope
of this report—involves those children who are accompanied
by a parent or guardian when they enter the United States
(“accompanied children”). In the summer of 2014, the federal
government opened large family detention facilities in Karnes,
TX, and Artesia, NM, receiving widespread criticism of both
the conditions of conﬁnement and the immigration legal
The re-establishment of family detention is a
shameful new chapter, and the toll on children’s well-being
is of particular concern. On this topic, we refer readers to