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Language, Culture, and Immigration Relief Options
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May 21, 2010

By Wendy Cervantes and Yali Lincroft

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Children of immigrants represent the fastest growing segment of the United States child population. This policy brief analyzes the need for the child welfare system to develop and implement policies that take into account the unique needs of immigrant children and families. The authors point out that often child welfare policies and practices do not reflect the current demographics of the child population, creating risks for children of immigrants within the system. Recommendations are made to improve language accessible and culturally competent services throughout the system as well as to help educate child welfare staff on possible immigration relief options for children and families who come into contact with the system.

Recommendations for child welfare agencies include:

  • Development of comprehensive language access policies which provide verbal and written communication in a client’s preferred language;
    Implementation of strategies to recruit, retain and promote at all levels bilingual child protection staff;
  • Development of participatory, collaborative partnerships with community-based agencies, including faith-based groups, to provide critical outreach to the immigrant community;
  • Development of formal partnerships with foreign consulates to provide ongoing technical support and sharing of resources;
  • Screening of all children who enter the child welfare system as early on as possible to determine whether they are eligible for a form of immigration relief;
  • Use of court improvement funds to educate and train judges, lawyers, and case workers on immigration relief options available to foster youth; and
  • Development of partnerships with local immigrant serving legal providers or other community-based organizations to assist clients with their immigration applications.

This report was released by First Focus in partnership with the Migration and Child Welfare National Network. This report is the second of the comprehensive paper series entitled, Caught Between Systems: The Intersection of Immigration and Child Welfare Policies. This new series examines the many challenges that arise when the immigration and child welfare systems collide and provides solutions on how the two systems can work together to better protect the interests of children and families.

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