Immigrant Families and Child Welfare Systems: Emerging Needs and Promising Policies

Mark Greenberg, Randy Capps, Andrew Kalweit, Jennifer Grishkin, & Ann Flagg
Date of Publication: 
April, 2019
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

Drastic changes in demographics and immigration policy and enforcement, particularly under the Trump administration, have important implications for child welfare programs. This report by the Migration Policy Institute, with research assistance provided by the American Public Human Services Association, reviews the policies and practices of state and local child welfare systems in working with immigrant families. The authors interviewed officials in 21 jurisdictions (14 states, 6 counties and the City of New York), and developed recommendations in nine key issue areas: organizational structure; training on immigration-related issues; language access; licensing; placement of a child with a caregiver outside the United States; memoranda of understanding with foreign consulates; screening for immigration benefits; confidentiality and information sharing; and policies when parents are in immigration detention. They found, for instance, that some agencies have developed training materials on immigration issues, sometimes in collaboration with state offices for immigrant affairs. A few jurisdictions explicitly provide that immigration status does not affect the licensing of a relative caregiver. Despite these positive developments, the authors found inconsistent awareness of many immigration-related issues as they relate to “care arrangements.” This knowledge gap limits access to crucial programming for immigrants. Among their recommendations, the authors suggest that agencies develop pre-service and ongoing training for frontline workers on immigration issues, review whether language access policies adequately reflect the characteristics and needs of the target population, and address barriers that may prevent noncitizen caregivers from becoming licensed providers. (Patrick Bloniasz for The Immigrant Learning Center Public Education Institute)

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Greenberg, M., Capps, R., Kalweit, A., Grishkin, J., & Flagg, A. (2019). Immigrant Families and Child Welfare Systems: Emerging Needs and Promising Policies. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from