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Unaccompanied Children’s Program

While some immigrant families travel to the U.S. border together, very often children travel alone and cross the border in search of safety and reunification with a family member here in the United States. Since 2011, IINE has helped unaccompanied minors by providing the support and resources they need to reunify with loved ones in the U.S.

Unaccompanied Children’s Program Team Map Coverage

This program is currently supported by four teams that serve families throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, parts of New Hampshire and Maine, and the New York City area

Unaccompanied children fleeing violence cross the U.S. border.

Unaccompanied children are flagged or detained by law enforcement.

A national refugee agency refers children to IINE.

Within 48 hours, IINE makes a home visit to ensure a safe environment.

Check-ins, family orientation with social workers, referrals for mental health care, support with medical visits, school registration assistance, guidance in setting goals for future success.

Our Impact

For more than a decade, a steadily and rapidly increasing number of youth from the “Northern Triangle” region of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have been forced to cross the Mexico/U.S. border unaccompanied, to seek refuge from violence stemming from crime and violence, extreme poverty, and political instability. IINE has responded by helping to reunify children, some as young as two years old, with their U.S. based families, connect them with mental and physical health services, help them find an attorney to support their asylum process, and enroll them in public school and/or programs that prepare them for education or work. 

Our program delivers essential services to children and teenagers who are referred to us by immigration authorities after they have been detained and sheltered by the U.S. government under federal policy guidelines. IINE’s social workers provide clinical assessment and family safety planning, connect children with physical and mental health services, educate parents on the effects of childhood trauma and resources for healing, and help children access food and basic needs, education, and legal support for asylum.

Program Expansion

We have seen a tremendous increase in the number of unaccompanied children who need help. In response, we are providing a new level of service and have doubled the size of our team to serve more than 600 children each year. The program’s growth has allowed us to reach more families and help them thrive in their new environment by linking children to the support they need and families with tools to work towards growth and stability.

With our recent expansion, we have been able to:

Meet the needs of unserved or underserved children apprehended and in federal care and requiring support services 

Support reunification of children with their U.S.-based families, prioritizing each child’s safety and preventing abuse, neglect, trafficking, and runaway crises 

Enable equitable access to education and resources that benefit reunified children with the goal of increasing literacy and adjustment to U.S. culture  

Increase family stabilization and trauma recovery supports

As part of the expansion, we have formed a fourth team to work with children and their families in the New York City area.

Spotlight Success

Carlos’ Story: An unaccompanied Youth Builds a New Life in the U.S.

Carlos was fifteen years old when he left Honduras on his own. Fleeing violence and seeking a better education, and medical treatment for an eye condition that left him partially blind, he was optimistic about a future in the U.S.

After crossing the the U.S. border just beyond the Rio Grande, Carlos was arrested on entry and held for the night at a detention facility in Texas before being brought to a shelter for youth in Miami. Carlos remembers exactly how long he was at the shelter: 82 days. He missed his family in Honduras, and was frightened by the uncertainty of his future.

Carlos was in the middle of a soccer game at the detention facility when he was told he would be released to live with his aunt in New Jersey. He had not seen her in person since he was very young and only had pictures to remember her by, but he was very excited; finally, he would be starting his new life in America.

Spotlight Report: Unaccompanied Children’s Program (January 2023)

The Spotlight Report is a quarterly report to bring you a deeper understanding of our work. This Spotlight Report on the Unaccompanied Children’s Program explores how IINE works to reunify hundreds of children a year—some as young as two years old—with their U.S.-based families across New England.