American Humane Association: Child Welfare Services Should Be Available to All Children Regardless of Immigration Status

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The American Humane Association believes that all children need protection, and that when it comes to child welfare, all children are deserving of services, regardless of their immigration status, nationality, ethnicity or country of origin, or the documentation status of their parents. Immigrant children and children from immigrant families who are involved in the child protection or child welfare systems throughout the U.S. must be afforded services that address the national child welfare goals of safety, permanency of connections and support, and well-being for all children.

Children of immigrants represent one of the country’s most vulnerable populations and one of the least likely groups to receive the services for which they are legally eligible. About five million children in the U.S. have at least one undocumented parent, and although a large majority of these children are U.S. citizens by birth, they are increasingly at risk for separation from their parents. When this occurs, children are faced with indelible traumatic consequences.

Worksite raids and negative public sentiments about undocumented immigration have a direct impact on these children. When parents are detained or deported, their children are often left to fend for themselves. “Their world is shattered, they are left unprotected,” said Sonia Velazquez, senior vice president of Child Welfare programs for the American Humane Association, and a founder of the Migration and Child Welfare National Network, a multidisciplinary coalition of more than a dozen organizations working in tandem since 2006 to address the unique needs of these children. “Only by focusing on the gaps between complex immigration issues and child welfare policies can we find the solutions needed to protect each of these children and fulfill the mandate of child welfare.”

In line with its history of protecting the most vulnerable, American Humane also strongly advocates for humane policies and protections for children and families affected by immigration investigations, arrests, detention and deportation. The effects of separating families should be considered when planning for and providing services to families affected by documentation status issues. These are essential components to ensuring that individuals, families and all members of the community remain stable and healthy.

“The rapidly evolving child welfare field increasingly needs to work effectively with immigration professionals to understand policies and laws and implement effective practices,” said Velazquez. Since 2005, American Humane and its peers have provided knowledge and resources that help child welfare agencies protect immigrant children. “We have accomplished much, but it is obvious that too many children are still unprotected and that we are far from preventing the circumstances that might result in children being left on their own, without a family that protects them, and a society or even a language that they can call their own.”

For more information about American Humane’s position on child welfare services and the humane treatment of children and immigrant families, visit http://www.americanhumane.org/assets/docs/about-us/AU-childrens-division-position-statements-1.pdf.

For more information on The Migration and Child Welfare National Network, visit http://www.americanhumane.org/protecting-children/programs/child-welfare-migration/.

About American Humane Association

Since 1877, the historic American Humane Association has been at the forefront of every major advancement in protecting children, pets and farm animals from cruelty and abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding human-animal interaction and its role in society. As the nation’s voice for the protection of children and animals, American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at www.americanhumane.org today.

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