Thousands of Children Stuck in Foster Care after Parents Deported, Report Finds

A report released this week reveals yet another devastating consequence of the enforcement-only approach to immigration—a startling number of children whose parents have been detained and deported are placed in foster care and face enormous barriers reuniting with their families. According to the Applied Research Center, 1 in 4 people deported in FY 2011 (nearly 100,000 people) left behind a U.S. citizen child. The report found that the odds of reuniting the families are so low that the parents “basically fall off the face of the earth when it comes to the child welfare system.” Sadly, because of the regular increase in the number of annual deportations, this number is expected to triple in the next five years.

The report, titled Shattered Families, found that:

  • An estimated 5,100 children, currently living in foster care, have detained or deported parents. Nearly 15,000 more children are expected in the next five years.
  • In the first six months of 2011, ICE deported 46,000 parents of U.S. citizen children, or 1 in 4 of all deportation cases.
  • In areas where the local police act as immigration enforcement in collaboration with ICE, children in foster care were 29% more likely to have a detained or deported parent. The study found that Secure Communities has created “deportation hot spots” with increased numbers of children in foster care.
  • Immigrant victims of domestic and gender-based violence are at a significantly greater risk of losing their children. 1 in 9 cases studied involved domestic violence.

The number of cases has flooded the child welfare system, all at the expense of U.S. tax payer. The U.S. reportedly spends $22 billion dollars on children in foster care annually, which averages to $40,000 per child— an unnecessary cost for children with able relatives. Yet, Child Protective Services (CPS) cannot place children with undocumented family members because they “could be deported at any time.” And because the average person detained is moved over 300 miles from their home before deportation proceedings, the chances of finding a parent for court hearings and reunification are slim.

While CPS is legally required to reunify children with able parents, immigrant children face enormous barriers. According to the report’s author, Seth Wessler, “there’s a limit to how long [Child Protective Services] will look for a parent. If the parent doesn’t speak English or doesn’t call their consulate, it actually makes is very easy for them to give up.” In some cases, once parental rights have been terminated, children are put up for adoption.

So what can federal, state and local governments do to protect families from separation? Implement policies that specifically protect children. The report recommends that Congress should create alternatives to detention for parents and allow them to participate “meaningfully” in dependency proceedings. DHS should amend the June 2011 memo to clarify that all parents of minor children should be granted discretionary relief with an emphasis on parents with children in foster care. State legislatures should institute “time-of-arrest” protocols for local law enforcement agencies so parents can decide who should take custody of their children.

Without these protections, thousands of children currently separated from their families—and thousands to come—will continue to languish in foster care. Is America, a country that prides itself on family values, really willing to let that happen?

Photo by Phototrope.

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  • Audrey McDonald

    Outrageous! This reminds me of the piitiful plight of orphaned children in 19th century Britain described by Charles Dickens! Who advocates for these children? Or are as the children of parents without papers are they not entitled to representation?! Is any effort made to place children with foster parents who are of the same culture or at least culturally sensitive? Is any effort .made to place children in the communities in which they have been living?

  • David

    Why aren’t these children with their parents? If the parents are deported, their children should go with them, I don’t care where the children were born, they belong with their parents.

  • Jorge Rivera

    Don’t blame the government when it was the parents choice to leave their children behind. I don’t know about the rest of you but no matter where I’m going my kids are going with me. Children are better off with their parents no matter where they are than being left in foster care.

    • Ellie

      First of all, it is not really the parents CHOICE. Do you not understand that the system makes it nearly impossible for parents to have a choice to take their children with them?

  • lance wells

    There are many more than you know parents are afraid to take children to their home countries for safety reasons especially when the child is a us citizen. Even Mexico is unsafe now.

  • http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-all-night-deportations Angeles

    We are working with deported migrants in Mexicali, and we know that the children are the main motivation to try to cross the border again, they are willing to take the risk.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-all-night-deportations

  • Tang

    It IS sad that the parents decided to break the law, and put their children in this position. Then again, looking at the news from Mexico on the crimes of violence, I can’t say that I would do any differently. I would MUCH rather “risk” leaving my child behind in the U.S., then bring them back to some of the real battleground states in the drug wars going on right now.
    That being said, a child left behind really IS a good motivator for the parent(s) to return. I wish it would be done legally.. but it’s generlaly a whole lot faster to just cross illegally again.
    The crux of the situation is this: Parents who are not in the country legally, are responsible for their children. Just like any criminal parent – if they get locked up, their children get placed with family or foster care in response to the parents actions. It’s terrible for the children – but the people who should care the most about those children are the ones making the decisions for them first and foremost. The rest of us, are just responding to a situation that the Parents put us in the best ways that we can.

  • http://immigrationimpact Jerome C Zamora

    Least we forget these immigrants came looking for a better life for their families and the children are citizens of this country. We are worried for all the wrong reasons we spend billions on wars, give bail outs to banks, we protect the abusers of our children (PennState), and we worry of what ever small cost immagrants may cost even when they pay taxes for the goods they buy and yes some pay income taxes or these taxes are with held. It is time that our immigration policies become friendly to our neighbors to the South who are willing to come and do the work we will not do! Immigrants regardless of status take all the risks to better teir lifes.

  • http://detentiondialogues.blogspot.com/ Christina

    Many mothers and fathers are detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. While the parents sit in detention fighting deportation for weeks, months, and sometimes years, the children are separated from their parents. Some of these parents are fleeing persecution in their home country. So, they cannot just take their children back to their country of origin. Detaining and deporting parents–breaking them apart from their children–is unacceptable, un-American, and a clear sign that we need to revamp our immigration laws and policies.

  • Cristian Madera

    To the Editor

    The statistics provided in your article are astounding and on point especially with the legislation passed in Arizona and Alabama where it has made it okay to racial profile people. These figure should up in the next few years if more states decide to pass similar legislation.
    I feel the government should step in and take one of the options you provided in the article, i like the one where the parent is given the opportunity to chose who would take custody of their children. Also, give CPS more of an opportunity to reunite families since some of the time they are handcuffed because of Deportation proceedings. I like how you ended you article with the question, America does really need to rethink where the values are and if America does have family values why is this being allowed.

  • serena

    History proves and still continues U.S. have a monsterous evil in separating families.

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  • Anita Anaya

    I am interested in fostering children of deported parents or those migrated to US; 1306 south 9th, edinburg, texas Anita Anaya

  • Christina

    I am interested in becoming a foster parent of these children but my husband is illegal and we are in a immigration process of getting his papers to be here, can I or do I qualify to be a foster parent.

  • Reece Ann Robinson

    My husband and I would love to take in a young child (NB to 4yrs) because of language into our home to raise and love as one of our child.

  • Justjean

    These kids need to be with their parents. If the parents are deported they should keep their children with them. Moving out of the states does not erase the kids’ American citizenship privileges.

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