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Department of Health and Human Services O ffice of Refugee Resettlement Haitian Children and Humanitarian Parole: Sa feguarding Child Well-being During.

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Presentation on theme: "Department of Health and Human Services O ffice of Refugee Resettlement Haitian Children and Humanitarian Parole: Sa feguarding Child Well-being During."— Presentation transcript:

1 Department of Health and Human Services O ffice of Refugee Resettlement Haitian Children and Humanitarian Parole: Sa feguarding Child Well-being During an Emergency Center for Adoption Policy, Eighth Annual Adoption Law and Policy Conference Adoption in Light of United States Government Policy, Practice and Laws Co-sponsored with New York Law School, 4 March 2011 Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement Haitian Children and Humanitarian Parole: Safeguarding Child Well-being During an Emergency Center for Adoption Policy, Eighth Annual Adoption Law and Policy Conference Adoption in Light of United States Government Policy, Practice and Laws Co-sponsored with New York Law School, 4 March 2011

2 Devastating earthquake hits Haiti at a 7.0 magnitude. Estimated 92, ,000 people killed; many more injured; great loss of homes and severe damage to infrastructure 1300 schools, 50 health care facilities, and numerous orphanages were destroyed or significantly damaged USG concerned for welfare of children and directed certain efforts towards those children in orphanages who were in adoption process

3 DHS initiates special Humanitarian Parole (HP) program for Haitian Orphans, beginning January 18, 2011 and ending April 14, Program Criteria: Evidence that prior to 1/12/10, child was: (1) legally adopted in Haiti or legally eligible for adoption (e.g., fully relinquished for purposes of adoption), AND (2) matched with U.S. prospective adoptive parent (PAP).  Two categories: ◦ Category 1: Haitian adoption completed; family awaiting completion of process through U.S. Embassy to secure travel documents for entering U.S.. ◦ Category 2: Haitian adoption process begun but not completed; child eligible for adoption AND matched to U.S. family, i.e., child was in the queue for adoption prior to January 12, 2010.

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5 At port of entry (Miami), DHS/Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) reviewed documents and:  (1) If Category 1, CBP released child to adoptive parent. (2) If Category 2, CBP released child to HHS/ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).  Child transported to His House - an ORR-funded child care facility - for ORR to process release of child to prospective adoptive parents. His House provided food/shelter/safety for children while PAPs met with ORR representatives.

6  BACKGROUND: To safeguard the welfare of undocumented children and youth apprehended and detained by Immigration, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (HSA) created the Division of Unaccompanied Children’s Services (DUCS) placing it in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).  When an unaccompanied alien child is apprehended by DHS, by law DHS must transfer the child/youth into ORR/DUCS custody and care. These children are in immigration proceedings and must appear before an immigration judge. The HSA (§462(g)) defines an Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC) as a child who: ◦ ( a) does not have a lawful immigration status in the United States; ◦ (b) has not attained 18 years of age; and ◦ (c) with respect to whom —  (i) no parent or legal guardian is in the United States; or  (ii) no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody.

7  Every year, up to 9,000 UACs are transferred by DHS to DUCS where they are placed in the least restrictive setting and cared for in one of more than 41 child care facilities nationwide. These are temporary placements while case plans are created to determine the next steps. ◦ Some UACs may be eligible for immigration relief, including asylum or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Some UACs may be repatriated; and Other UACs may be released to families or family friends who serve as sponsors. In 2010, approximately 5000 UACs were released to sponsors. Releases are only made after strict safety conditions are met. In certain cases, DUCS may provide post- release services.

8  THEREFORE: Haitian children in Category 2 who entered the U.S. under the humanitarian parole program for Haitian orphans were deemed to be Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) because they were: ◦ (1) under 18 years of age ◦ (2) without a visa or “valid” immigration status (HP is not considered a lawful immigration status, although the U.S. government authorizes entry and is aware of the parolee’s presence) ◦ (3) without a parent or legal guardian to take physical custody.  At the port of entry (Miami), DHS/CBP released the Cat2 children into the care and custody of ORR.

9  ORR met with PAPs at His House (an ORR/DUCS provider). While staff reviewed home studies, FBI clearances, and identity documents, PAPs were able to play with the children.  When ORR determined it would be a “safe” release and the documents indicated that the family appeared able to provide for the physical and mental well-being of the child, the child was released to the physical custody of the PAP.  NOTE: The ORR release was based on safety and child well-being and was not meant to serve as a Federal approval for adoption. Only a court in the PAP state of residence is authorized to determine whether the family meets State adoption criteria, i.e., evidence of adoptability (child is relinquished and eligible for adoption) and evidence that the family is able to provide for the child’s needs.

10 DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES 370 L’Enfant Promenade, S.W. Washington, D.C PAP Name PAP Address Re: Placement of [insert child’s name] for the Purpose of Finalizing Adoption Dear [insert PAP name(s)]: On behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), I write to congratulate you on the wonderful new addition to your family, and to provide important information that will help you in moving forward swiftly to finalize the adoption of [insert child’s name] pursuant to the laws of your state of residence. You have been through a difficult and highly emotional process - identifying a child to adopt, and securing the necessary clearances and approval from the Government of Haiti and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for parole of [insert child’s name] into the United States under the Special Humanitarian Parole Program for Haitian Orphans. As you know, when your child was paroled into the United States, as an “unaccompanied alien child,” DHS transferred custody to HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a component of ACF. You were initially screened to be a sponsor for the child because you were in the process of adopting [insert child’s name]. Once ORR made a determination that you were able to provide for the child’s well-being, you qualified as a custodian sponsor under 8 U.S.C. §1232(c)(3)(A). In making the determination to release [insert child’s name] into your care and custody, ORR examined the home study, financial and other personal documents you submitted, and confirmed that FBI criminal background clearances had been obtained. You completed the ORR Family Reunification Packet, and provided us with suitable verification of your identification and citizenship. ORR released the child to you with the understanding that you would finalize the adoption process which you initiated before the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, ORR recognizes the authority of the courts in your state of residence to grant you legal custody of [insert child’s name] and to finalize adoption proceedings in accordance with your state’s laws. You should now proceed as promptly as is feasible to complete legal adoption proceedings and to secure formal legal custody in accordance with the laws of your state. The court will determine whether you meet the criteria required to assume legal custody of and to adopt [insert child’s name]. If you meet your state’s criteria, the court may consider this letter to serve as ORR’s formal consent to the adoption. If you need help finding an attorney to help you obtain a custody order or complete the adoption, you may wish to see the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law special “Haitian Child Welfare” web page. The web page includes contact information for lawyers who will have participated in a special ABA internet-based training on the process for securing adoptions for children who arrived in the United States under the Special Humanitarian Parole Program for Haitian Orphans (http://new.abanet.org/child/Pages/Haiti.aspx). We also encourage you to check with the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (http://www.adoptionattorneys.org/).http://new.abanet.org/child/Pages/Haiti.aspx)(http://www.adoptionattorneys.org/). As you may know, it is possible to complete your international adoption in Haiti. For purposes of this letter, we assume that you will be completing the adoption in your state. Your state or local bar association may also have information about attorneys who can assist you with the adoption requirements in your state. The law of each state may vary in some respects and you should seek counsel experienced with your state’s procedures. Please note that your child entered the United States as a parolee and does not yet have permanent immigration status. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing letters about the steps that can be taken to regularize your child’s immigration status and information can be found on the USCIS website at It is very important that you take the appropriate steps as soon as possible to ensure that your child may obtain a permanent resident status and United States citizenship.www.uscis.gov To create a support network for families with children who came to the United States under the Special Humanitarian Parole Program for Haitian Orphans, ORR is in the process of developing a distribution list, and will be providing further information concerning possible benefits under Federal programs and other supportive services. Your child has undergone numerous and potentially traumatic changes in the last several months, including adjusting to a new family, a different language, culture, and new foods. We strongly encourage you to consult your pediatrician for guidance on your child’s physical and mental health and to take advantage of supports in your community that can help both your child and your entire family adjust to these changes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is conducting a survey to find out about the medical conditions of public health significance seen in children from Haiti entering the United States after the January 12, 2010 earthquake. CDC has requested that we ask you to please complete a brief survey found at Your participation is completely voluntary and confidential and will take about 5-10 minutes of your time. The information obtained will help CDC better understand and respond to the medical needs of Haitian adoptees entering the United States. If you do not wish to participate in the distribution list, or if you have any questions or concerns about your responsibility towards [insert child’s name], please notify Elaine Kelley, Associate Director for Child Welfare, at ORR/ACF/HHS, 901 D Street, S.W., 8 th Floor, Washington, D.C , or Please send us a copy of the adoption decree or legal custody order as soon as it is finalized. I look forward to hearing from you soon. If you have a picture to spare, it would brighten our day to receive a copy of that as well. It has been our privilege to have been part of the process that brought you and your child together. We wish your family the very best. Sincerely, Eskinder Negash Director Office of Refugee Resettlement

11 Many families of Cat2 children have successfully completed their U.S. adoption. The Help Haiti Act of 2010 permits a child who entered under the HP program for Haitian orphans to apply for adjustment of status to Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR). If adopted by a U.S. citizen before his/her 18 th birthday, the child is deemed to meet the requirements of sections 320 and 322 of the INA and automatically become a U.S. citizen and eligible to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship. Note: Only Haitian children who entered under the special orphan HP program qualify for the benefits of the Help Haiti Act, i.e., a Haitian child entering under HP for medical purposes is not eligible.

12  Unexpected timing for child’s arrival and family not prepared (financially or otherwise)  Changes in family dynamics  Challenges in securing Social Security Number  Cultural/Language adjustment of children  Issues with school enrollment  Loss of original legal documents  “Independent” adoptions may lack resources and supports  and others….

13  Disruption or dissolution of adoption ◦ Several children from disrupted adoptions who have humanitarian parole have been received back into ORR care to be placed in foster homes with a goal of adoption, while others have been placed by the original PAPs with new families who plan to adopt them. ◦ Parents must work with their State courts to dissolve an adoption.  Reasons for disruption/dissolution may include: ◦ Family has financial or personal crisis ◦ Child’s behavior extremely disruptive to family life, i.e., aggressive and/or violent behaviors toward household members; extreme sibling conflict, etc. ◦ Child acting out sexually, perpetrating abuse on younger siblings in household

14  Since January, 2010, HHS/ORR has processed releases of more than 650 Cat2 Haitian children to U.S. families in 45 states. The majority were released to PAPs the same day. DHS has processed approximately 400 Cat1 children, releasing them directly to the PAPs at the airport.  Currently, there are still a few children in the queue to leave Haiti once their paperwork is completed and they have Haitian passports.  HHS/ORR has also received into custody a small number of Haitian children evacuated for medical purposes and who entered the U.S. under humanitarian parole and without a parent or legal guardian. Some have: ◦ returned to Haiti after treatment, when parents indicate they are able to care for them; ◦ others remain in the U.S. to receive further medical attention and to await notification from their family in Haiti that the family is able to tend to the child’s medical and other needs upon return home.

15 Elaine M. Kelley, PhD, MSW Associate Director for Child Welfare HHS/ACF/Office of Refugee Resettlement 901 D Street, SW – 8 th Floor Washington, DC


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