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What happens to children when parents are detained or deported?

Child Abuse & Neglect
Children of Immigrants

Voxxi, by Griselda Nevarez

Wendy Cervantes, vice president of immigration and child rights policy for First Focus, explained that many detained or deported parents often lose their parental rights because some existing child welfare policies make it “really difficult” for these parents to reunify with their children.

She said the child welfare system oftentimes establishes requirements that parents must meet within certain timelines in order to regain custody of their children. This includes attending family court hearings, participating in child-parent visitations and attending parenting classes.

“Usually these timelines don’t correspond with how much time a parent might be detained, especially because detention isn’t quite like the criminal justice system where there’s a set sentence for how long a parent is going to be in there,” Cervantes said. “Parents can be in detention indefinitely.”
Another challenge, she said, is that for years there has been a lack of collaboration between the child welfare system and the immigration enforcement system.

“They’re driven by different missions,” she said. “Immigration enforcement is about detaining undocumented immigrants whereas the child welfare system is fully focused on a different mission, which is the best interest of the child. None of their policies work together.”

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