Services for Unaccompanied Children (UC) 11: Sponsorship and Family Involvement
The organization supports family reunification efforts by identifying and engaging potential sponsors to ensure safe and appropriate placements for children awaiting immigration proceedings.
Organizations providing temporary care to unaccompanied children are responsible for family reunification efforts. As part of the reunification process, organizations are required to engage family members located in the United States and the child’s country of origin. While the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is responsible for making the determination on whether or not the child will be released to family members or other authorized individuals, the organization (the ORR contracted provider) is required to vet all potential sponsors (e.g., ensure mandatory background checks are complete, verify relationships with potential sponsors, and communicate with ORR to determine if home study or post-release services are in the child’s best interest) and document all relevant information in the child’s case record.
Unaccompanied Children Services support youth safety and well-being, facilitate family involvement and provide necessary supports to children seeking physical and emotional safety and legal protection.
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
Procedures need strengthening; or
With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
Timeframes are often missed; or
Several client records are missing important information; or
Client participation is inconsistent.
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.
Sponsor assessment criteria
Sponsor assessment tool
Facilitating family involvement and engagement
Sponsor identification, screening, and assessment
Making a sponsorship determination
No On-Site Evidence
Interviews may include:
Review case records
The organization helps every child to:
express the nature of family connection desired;
prevent, manage, and reduce family conflicts and develop problem-solving skills;
identify family strengths that help members meet challenges;
cope with family separation and grieve the loss of family; and
prepare for return to the family, if appropriate.
The organization supports family involvement and engagement, regardless of their immigration status, by:
providing assistance or support including travel arrangements, as needed;
encouraging the family’s active participation in decision-making;
providing an environment conducive to family visits and activities;
coordinating or facilitating family services, as appropriate; and
re-establishing parental and family care, when in the best interest of the child.
In cases where the child is a victim of human trafficking, it is important to be aware that the child’s parent or caregiver may be the trafficker or complicit in the trafficking. In such cases, determining appropriate family supports and level of involvement should include the input of the child, as well as child welfare and law enforcement systems.
To identify, notify, and engage potential sponsors, the organization:
interviews the child and his or her parents, legal guardians, and/or family members; and
works with the child’s country of origin in collaboration with the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The organization implements safe, appropriate screening measures when communicating with potential sponsors that include:
use of interpreters, when appropriate;
verification of the sponsor’s identity and his or her family relationships;
coordination with the child’s parents, legal guardians, or closest relatives, as appropriate;
screening for exploitation, abuse, trafficking, or other safety concerns; and
assessing the child’s own sense of safety.
When a sponsor has been identified, a sponsor assessment is conducted to evaluate his or her:
strengths, resources, and risk factors within the context of the child’s needs; and
relationship with the child.
The child is actively engaged in the sponsorship process and encouraged to discuss his or her interest in and understanding of sponsorship, as appropriate to his or her age, cultural needs, and developmental level.
The sponsorship decision is based on what is in the best interest of the child and all family reunification efforts and any decisions related to sponsorship are documented in the child’s case record.
Although the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has the authority to make the final determination pertaining to a child’s release to a sponsor, the organization is responsible for providing ORR with transfer and release recommendations based on all available information collected during the vetting process. The organization also advocates for the child and his or her unique needs in relation to the potential sponsorship placement.
The organization documents why the goal is in the best interest of the child and why other sponsors and/or placement options were not appropriate in the case record. If siblings are not placed together, the organization must document the reason in the case record.