E.g., 04/22/2024
E.g., 04/22/2024
Strengthening Services for Unaccompanied Children in U.S. Communities

Early 2021 saw a large increase in unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, with arrivals in March and April reaching record monthly highs. Much of the public focus has been on why children are making the journey, how many are arriving, and how they are cared for when in federal custody, particularly at a time when shelter capacity is under severe strain. Yet there is another crucial set of questions around what happens once these children are released from federal custody to parents or other sponsors in communities across the United States.

Explore the Data: Unaccompanied Children in U.S. Communities

MPI Data Hub tool on unaccompanied children

This interactive tool shows the number of unaccompanied minors released to sponsors by state and the state's share of children released from federal custody annually since 2014.

This report examines the process by which unaccompanied minors are released to sponsors, federal post-release services, and service needs. It then discusses insights and perspectives shared by service providers during interviews and roundtable meetings on common challenges these children and their sponsors face and approaches to addressing them. The report concludes with recommendations for federal, state, and local actors and philanthropic organizations to improve post-release services.

The authors note that while there have long been calls to improve these services, doing so has become even more important in light of increased arrivals and efforts to expedite the release of unaccompanied children from federal custody—and that such improvements can lead to better outcomes for arriving children, their families and schools, and the broader communities in which they will live while awaiting immigration proceedings.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  Unaccompanied Children, the Shelter System, and the Release Process

3  ORR Responsibilities after Children Are Released into U.S. Communities
A. 30-Day Safety and Well-Being Call
B. ORR National Call Center Help Line
C. Legal Services
D. Post-Release Services

4  Understanding the Service Needs of Unaccompanied Children
A. Legal
B. Physical Health
C. Mental Health
D. Education
E. Family Integration and Housing
F. Gangs and Violence

5  Key Findings from Stakeholder Interviews

6  Recommendations