As we begin a new year, a new presidency, and new policies on immigration, it’s vital for child welfare leaders to increase coordination with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to address the impacts of deportation policies on children who remain in the US, often in a foster care placement, following the deportation of their parents. Having experienced a significant lack of coordination between child welfare and immigration systems, including barriers to reunification in my own practice, the increasing concern around the impacts to foster care with potential changes to immigration policy is very real. Increases in deportation, and decreases in federal child welfare funding will have a substantial impact on an already over-burdened system. An influx of children, who’ve likely experienced high levels of chronic stress and ubiquitous anxiety for months or years worrying over the possibility their parents will be deported, will then enter a system ill-equipped to address the impacts of this pervasive trauma and the very real loss, which can only be their very worst nightmare coming true.
President-elect Donald Trump made clear in a recent interview that he plans to deport between two and three million undocumented immigrants, a drastic increase from current practice under which about 235,000 were sent away in 2015.
Many of the people being deported will be parents of children who are U.S. citizens, born into the rights and protections of this country. Child welfare and immigration reform advocates fear that the surge in deportation will prompt a spike in foster care admissions for children in this circumstance.
“It’s a kid’s worst nightmare to have their parents disappear,” said Wendy Cervantes, director of First Focus’ Center for the Children of Immigrants. “You know how we create those plans for ‘Okay if there’s a fire we’re going to meet outside at this spot?’ [Kids] always said: ‘Those plans are so much easier, because we know that we’re going to be with our parents once we’re outside. And now we’re planning for our parents not being here.’ … It’s really scary. It was just eye-opening to me that it’s scarier than having your house burn down.”
Wariness and uncertainty has prompted some organizations to plan ahead in an effort to help families that might be torn apart by deportation
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