The National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council and the Center on Immigration and Child Welfare (CICW) hosted a webinar, “Supporting Immigrant Youth & Children in Foster Care: Priorities from Lived Experience Leaders and Best Practices to Support.” The team developed priorities based on a survey they conducted with immigrant foster youth and people with lived experiences. Council Members of The National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council, Aliyah Zeien, Rimy Morris, Stormy Lukasavage, the Director of CICW, Megan Finno, and CICW Program Manager, Sophia Sepp presented the following priorities for promoting the welfare of immigrant youth:
We should not exit foster care without legal status. Obtaining legal status allows foster youth access to healthcare, education, grants, employment, permanency, and a successful transition out of the system. Immigrant youth may qualify to receive Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which would grant them lawful permanent immigration status.
We need caseworkers who are equipped to support us in our immigration case. Immigrant youth need caseworker support and legal representation to properly navigate the legal process and foster system. It is recommended that specialized offices/units be implemented in agencies to support caseworkers and youth in varying areas of expertise, bilingual staff should be hired, and caseworkers should be trained on immigration-related issues and processes. Resources can be found at http://www.cimm.cw.org .
We need support in understanding, accessing, and exercising our basic human rights. They suggest caseworkers should support youth towards reunification by maintaining family connections using technology and language access services. The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, allows youth 14+ to receive their rights, foster youth should be given the same, particularly in their primary language so they are able to understand their protections.
CICW Immigration and Child Welfare Practice Network has a platform for ongoing communications, questions, and resource sharing among child welfare agency representatives who work with immigrant youth and families across the country. Linked here:https://cimmcw.org/cicw-professional-networks/ . For their weekly newsletter https://cimmcw.org/newsletter/
By Harper Dilley, Policy Intern