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Children Seeking Refuge Program


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A Message from Governor Martin O’Malley

Maryland was founded as a refuge for those fleeing religious persecution, and we are proud of our state’s tradition as a welcoming and hospitable place. Our state and our nation have core values that have long drawn our citizens together and shaped our identity: e pluribus unum, from many, one. Now our nation has the opportunity to reaffirm our ideals by helping Central American children fleeing violence in their home countries.

Maryland will continue to honor our founders by working with our federal partners and other states to provide refuge and humane treatment to these children as they go through federal legal proceedings. As Governor of Maryland, I believe in the dignity of every individual. I also believe in American generosity and know that welcoming strangers is a core tenet of many major world religions. I invite all Marylanders who are able to help provide support to these children.

Gov. Martin O’Malley

There are three easy ways to get help right now:

  1. Dial 2-1-1 — Open 24 hours. Get specific help where you live.
  2. Go to www.buscandomaryland.com — Find providers near where you live or search by topic.
  3. Download and print our free Resource Guide for Families in Need of Help to Support Central American Children Seeking Refuge from Violence.

 
In 2014, over 30,000 Central American children seeking refuge from violence have arrived in the United States. More than 2,200 of these children have been placed in Maryland with relatives. They are coming to Maryland from violence-ridden communities in Central America and are seeking safety in the United States. Most of these children are living with or have experienced some amount of trauma during their journey across the border into the United States.

While the state does not have a direct role in the placement of children, Maryland is working with the federal government to help support efforts to place these children in family homes and ensure that they are given the due process available to them under the law.

Many meaningful and generous offers of assistance have come forward from across Maryland. To find out how you can help support to these children and families, or to get more information, sign up here

 

How do I become a foster parent?

More than 30,000 children have come to the United States from January 1, 2014 through July 7,2014. During that time, 2,205 children have been placed in Maryland, predominantly with family members who already live here. However, the number of children seeking refuge from violence in Central America is growing, and there is a need for additional individuals and families willing to serve as foster parents for children who can not be reunified with family.

In order to become a foster parent in Maryland, you must first apply with a licensed child placement agency. A list of approved agencies can be found below. All potential foster parents, regardless of which agency is selected, must meet the same approval requirements set by the state. The agency you select will assist you in meeting these requirements. The process is thorough and can take six to eight weeks.

Please keep in mind that caring for someone else’s child will have an impact on your family life which will require some adjustments and a firm commitment on your part. Basic approval requirements include the following:

  1. Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and must be able to speak the child’s primary language.
  2. Applicants may be single or married and may live in a rental unit or own a home.
  3. Other requirements include criminal background checks, medical examinations and home inspections.
  4. Applicants are required to complete a minimum of 27 hours of pre-service education and
    20 hours in service training annually.
  5. Each child shall have adequate bedding and an individual bed.
  6. The number of children placed in a treatment home may not exceed two children.

 

These are the minimum requirements. Additional state requirements and agency policies can be found on our Website.

If you are interested in providing foster care through this program, please complete this form.

Child Placement Agencies
At the Present

KidsPeace is a national organization that recruits and licenses foster parents. KidsPeace is currently working with the federal government to place Central American children seeking refuge with foster families that KidsPeace licenses in Maryland. To learn more about becoming a foster parent with KidsPeace, contact Debra Hayes at 410-964-9329 or e-mail at Debra.Hayes@KidsPeace.org.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) coordinates foster parent interest and referrals nationally and connects applicants to partner programs who foster children seeking refuge. To fill out a LIRS inquiry form, go to www.lirs.org/foster-care-inquiry/. In Maryland, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area serves foster parents in the Capital region. For more information, please contact Olufemi Odukoya at 202-723-3000 x. 284 or e-mail him at odukoyao@lssnca.org. Their website is http://lssnca.org/programs/adoption_foster/.

In the Future

Other, currently licensed Maryland child placement agencies have expressed an interest in partnering with the federal government to provide foster homes to these children. The following agencies have notified DHR that they have applied for grant funding to do this work. Use the contact information below to apply to be a foster parent with one of these agencies:

Agency Phone #
Board of Childcare of the United Methodist Church 410-922-2100
CareRite T.F.C., Inc 301-905-7999
KidsPeace National Centers of North AMerica, Inc. 410-964-9329
National Center for children and Families, Inc. 301-365-4480
Neighbor to Family, Inc. 410-496-8151
Parker Therapeutic Services, Inc. 410-800-4480
Progressive Life Center, lnc. 301-909-6824
Sheridan Patterson Center for Holistic Family Services, Inc. 410-602-6180
Woodbourne Center, Inc 410-563-6400

 


 

Ways to Help Children Seeking Refuge in the U.S.

Children and their caregivers will need ongoing support in our local communities including:

  1. Legal Services –Members of the legal community would be part of this group. The objective would be to identify pro bono legal services for Children in Maryland with a commitment to provide services for a specified number of children.
  2. Community Supports – Members of Community Resource Programs including churches, advocacy organizations, immigration services, CASA, health programs, food banks, etc, are needed to provide:
    • Basic economic needs
      • Clothing/Shoes/Blankets
      • Food/Food Assistance
    • Educational supports
      • Tutoring/homework help
      • School Navigation (enrollment, grade level, school meals, transportation)
      • Public Library Access
      • School supplies/ backpack
      • Internet access (e.g. Comcast Essentials)
      • Summer/Out Of School Time (OOST)
      • Education Planning
    • Housing
    • Employment Services
      • Job Counseling
      • Job Training
    • Counseling Services
    • ESL Services
    • Respite Services
      • Take family and/or youth to leisure community activities
        • Movie Tickets
        • Community Fairs
        • Amusement Park Tickets (Trips)
        • Passes to Museums
      • Provide opportunities for parents to have a night out without the children
    • Transportation
    • Health Care
    • Child Care

 


 

 

Data and Reports

According to the federal government, the number of children fleeing violence in Central America is expected to grow to 60,000 in 2014. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has indicated 92% of the children who have arrived in the U.S. originated from three countries that have been hit hardest by drug related violence — El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

ORR is tasked with all placement decisions for these children while they move through the immigration process prescribed by law. According to ORR, 85% of all children seeking refuge will be placed with relatives. ORR data released in July 2014 showing Maryland has the highest number of children per capita of any state, and is one of five states that comprise 50% of children placed in U.S. to date. When combined with Virginia and the District of Columbia, this represents 15% of children placed. County level data has not been released.

Please click here to view the chart in detail.

 


 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Unaccompanied Alien children program?

The Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program is a federally funded, federally managed program administered through nonprofit and faith-based organizations across the country.

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement is the entity responsible for the placement, custody, and transportation of unaccompanied children.

Who qualifies as children seeking refuge?

By law, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must provide for the custody and care of these children, who have no lawful immigration status in the United States; have not attained 18 years of age; and, with respect to whom, there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States, or no parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody. See 6 U.S.C. § 279(g)(2).

Under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Congress and the President transferred the care and custody of children seeking refuge to HHS from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to move towards a child welfare-based-model of care for children and away from the adult detention model. In the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which expanded and redefined HHS’s statutory responsibilities, Congress directed that UAC must “be promptly placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child.” See 8 U.S.C. § 1232(b)(2).

Where are these UAC coming from?

According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 92% of the children come primarily from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Will these children access public services?

Children seeking refuge are not eligible to receive public benefits such as cash assistance or food stamps.

Will these children pose a health threat to communities?

No. The HHS program provides well-child visits and vaccinations to all unaccompanied children while in federal custody. HHS ensures that the children have access to medical services prior to their release.

The federal Office for Refugees (ORR) is responsible for providing public health services for unaccompanied youth. For more information on ORR’s health program, please call (202) 401-9215.

What is Maryland’s role with this program?

The State of Maryland is supporting nonprofit service providers by providing communication coordination and referral information for the community.

How many kids will be placed in MD and where will they go?

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is the entity responsible for the placement, custody and transportation of unaccompanied children. ORR is in the process of selecting sites for transitional shelter for the these children. Updated data on the number of children reunifying with family or sponsors in Maryland can be found on the ORR website at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr.

Who can provide transitional shelter services?

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement is currently soliciting partnership with nonprofit and faith-based organizations to provide transitional shelter services for children seeking refuge. The federal government will announce the organizations selected to provide transitional shelter and care services by October 1.

Can I provide foster care to Central American children seeking refuge from violence?

If you are interested in providing foster care through this program, please complete this form. DHR will forward your contact information to nonprofit agencies working directly with the Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide temporary foster homes for the children.

How can I help or volunteer?

If you are interested in providing assistance to organizations serving children fleeing violence, or are interested in becoming a foster parent, please complete the information request form and someone will respond to you within 1-2 days.

Where can I get more information on ORR’s solicitation for partners/ funding opportunity announcement?

For questions about ORR’s funding opportunity, call:

Program Office Contact Hilda Crespo
Administration for Children and Families
Office of Refugee Resettlement
Phone: (202) 205-8395
E-mail: DCS_ProjectOfficers@acf.hhs.gov

I would like more information. Who can I contact?

If you would like to find out how you can assist nonprofit organizations, please complete our Request for Information Form . If you need assistance completing the form by telephone, call 1-800-332-6347 and an operator will be happy to assist you.

If you are a parent/ guardian/advocate for Central American children seeking refuge and have questions, or if you have questions about the reunification process, call the ORR Hotline (800) 203-7001.