Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

When parents are deported, where do their children wind up?

What happens to the children of immigrants who are deported? Some are left with relatives, and in some cases, the parents take them with or send for them later. But many times, they land in foster care, sometimes temporarily, sometimes indefinitely.

Some high-profile adoption cases involving children of deportees have made the news, but the long-term and sometimes permanent separation of families is more common than one might think, according to a piece today in ColorLines magazine. The report, part of a lengthy investigation, presents some wrenching statistics:

This family is one among thousands who"ve been through the same ordeal. In a yearlong investigation, the Applied Research Center, which publishes, found that at least 5,100 children whose parents are detained or deported are currently in foster care around the United States. That number represents a conservative estimate of the total, based on extensive surveys of child welfare case workers and attorneys and analysis of national immigration and child welfare trends. Many of the kids may never see their parents again.

These children, many of whom should never have been separated from their parents in the first place, face often insurmountable obstacles to reunifying with their mothers and fathers. Though child welfare departments are required by federal law to reunify children with any parents who are able to provide for the basic safety of their children, detention makes this all but impossible. Then, once parents are deported, families are often separated for long periods.

Ultimately, child welfare departments and juvenile courts too often move to terminate the parental rights of deportees and put children up for adoption, rather than attempt to unify the family as they would in other circumstances.

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