Children whose parents were detained or deported often go into the care of relatives
More than 544,000 children live in grandfamilies where the child, a parent, and/or a relative caregiver is foreign-born, according to a new report from Generations United, Love Without Borders: Grandfamilies and Immigration.
With increased immigration enforcement and children being separated from their parents, grandparents and other relatives often step up to raise the children left behind.
“The critical role grandfamilies play in providing love and care for children who have been separated from their parents is often overlooked in the immigration debates,” said Donna Butts, executive director at Generations United. “Research shows that relatives are uniquely suited to buffer the effects of the children’s stress and reduce the trauma of separation. Yet they usually take on this role with little to no warning and need support.”
Most grandparents and other relatives face a host of challenges caring for children who cannot remain with their parents. Grandfamilies with immigrant members, according to the report, face compounded challenges including restricted access to support and services to help the children, language barriers, and fear of government agencies.
“For the first time, a national report focuses on the intersection of grandfamilies and immigration,” said Ana Beltran, special advisor to Generations United. “Generations United shares its lessons learned from twenty years of working on behalf of grandfamilies so that children in immigrant grandfamilies – most of whom are U.S. citizens facing compounded challenges – can also be supported and thrive.”
The report’s recommendations include:
Advocating against policies that discourage relatives from stepping forward to care for children of parents who were detained or deported.
Ensuring that “Public Charge” determinations do not have detrimental effects on children.
Encouraging the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to require follow up contact for children released from ORR custody to connect them to services.
Ensuring that parents who are under threat of detention or deportation have useful tools to give other family members the legal authority to care for children.
The report also found that the number of children being raised in grandfamilies continues to rise. There are now 2,677,000 children being raised by grandparents, other relatives or close family friends without the children’s parents in the home. The percentage of children in foster care who are with relatives has increased by 9 percentage points from 24% in 2008 to 33% in 2017