E.g., 10/01/2023
E.g., 10/01/2023
Health and Social Service Needs of U.S.-Citizen Children with Detained or Deported Immigrant Parents

Between 2003 and 2013, the U.S. government formally removed 3.7 million immigrants to their home countries. According to the most reliable estimates, parents of U.S.-born children made up between one-fifth and one-quarter of this total.

This Urban Institute-MPI report examines the involvement of families with a deported parent with health and social service systems, as well as their needs and the barriers they face accessing such services. Drawing from fieldwork in five study sites in California, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, and Texas, the researchers find that family economic hardship is highly prevalent following parental detention and deportation, while child welfare system involvement is rarer. Schools represent a promising avenue for interaction with these families and delivery of services, as school officials are perceived as safer intermediaries by unauthorized immigrant parents who may be skeptical of interaction with other government agencies. Other important sources of support include health providers, legal service providers, and community- and faith-based organizations that immigrants trust.

The authors suggest a number of ways to provide services and reduce harm to children with detained and deported parents. First, health and human service agencies could improve their staff’s language capacity, cultural competence, and knowledge of issues associated with immigration status. Another approach involves building bridges between health and human services agencies and informal local organizations that immigrants trust. Coordination among the key agencies (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, social service agencies, and foreign country consulates) is critical, especially for the provision of child welfare services. And small organizations implement many promising strategies to serve children with detained and deported parents, but often face limited resources and high staff turnover. Institutionalizing such strategies would provide a stronger safety net for these children and families in need.

Table of Contents 



Experiences of Children with Detained and Deported Parents

Mental Health

Economic Hardship

Housing Instability

Instability in Caregiving

Performance in School

Returning to the Parent's Home Country

ICE Policies That Protect Children during Parental Detention and Deportation

Locating Parents in Detention

Visiting Parents in Detention

The 2013 Parental Interests Directive

Barriers to Meeting the Needs of Children with Deported or Detained Parents

Lack of Access to Major Benefit Programs

Lack of Access to Health Care

Short Supply of Key Support Services

Lack of Transportation

Social Service Agencies' Lack of Resources and Experience with Immigrant Populations

Difficulty Coordinating Child Welfare Services

Promising Approaches to Better Meet Children’s Needs

Improving Access to Benefits

Filing Gaps in Key Services

Building Trust between Families and Service Providers

Developing Expertise and Relationships to Better Handle Child Welfare Cases


Appendix A. Study Methods

Appendix B. Immigration Enforcement Context