On Tuesday, December 6, 2022 the National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council released a priority statement entitled Supporting Immigrant Children and Youth in Foster Care. Council members consulted with experts in immigration and foster care and polled current and youth formerly in foster care for their insight. The Council has forwarded three priorities:
- We shouldn’t exit foster care without legal status.
- We need caseworkers who are equipped to support us in our immigration case.
- We need support in understanding, accessing, and exercising our basic human rights.
The Council’s poll found that 66% of youth that are immigrants and had transitioned out of the foster care system, only 7% were adopted, and only 15% spoke about their immigration status when first being adopted. It is essential for young people that are immigrants exiting the foster care system to be granted legal status as it would provide them with health care, higher education grants, and employment. Without legal status, they will be unable to advocate for themselves or seek basic health care for fear of being removed from the country.
Agencies must provide training to at least some of their staff so they know how to access resources for this population of youth in care. Training must include cultural competence and resources for them to support youth and communication skills to put them at ease when sharing their status.
Adequate protections must be put in place to ensure that young people who are immigrants in foster care retain connections with their families, are able to practice their faith, stay connected to their culture, and understand their legal status. Additionally, we need to ensure that all youth in care understand what is available and how to access physical and mental health care services, including youth who are immigrants. Educating youth on their rights can reduce the vulnerabilities that they experience from predators.
By Yonathan Gonzalez Villatoro, Policy Intern, Pizzigati Fellow