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  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 13: Cross Program Protocols
13-20  Immigration Issues in the Child Welfare System

 

Cross Program Protocols
13-20  Immigration Issues in the Child Welfare System
Reference Points
Overview
DFCS Policy on Immigration Status
Identifying the Need for Immigration Services
Child Welfare System Flowchart
Notifying a Consulate when a Child Who is a Citizen of the Country Represented by the Consulate is Taken into Temporary Custody
Language Issues
Reference Points
Working with Immigrant Families in DFCS Context
Cultural Engagement and Assessment Tool
PRUCOL (Permanent Residence Under Color of Law)

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Violence Against Women Act
U-Visa
Nonimmigrant Status T-Visas

 Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Other Issues Related to Immigration and DFCS
Education and Immigrant Children
DFCS Staff Resource Contacts
Related Web Sites
Source Documents
Other References


Reference Points
Effective Date: 07/01/06
Last Updated: 7/31/2013
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Unites States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Popup Window Immigration Act of 1990
 Non CWS/CMS Forms:
MS Word Notification to Mexican Consulate (SCZ 330)
MS Word Request and Consent to Notify the Mexican Consulate of Dependency Proceedings (SCZ 331)
MS Word Out-of-Country Adoptions Referral Form (SCZ94)
bullet G-845 Supplement - PRUCOL - (Medi-Cal form not online)
 CWS/CMS Forms:
bullet Services Management Section:  Contact Notebook


Overview  

Child welfare services are provided to children and families without regard to immigration status. The Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) does not conduct investigations into the immigration status of children and families brought to the Agency’s attention; however, learning a family member’s immigration status may be necessary in determining eligibility for services, may enable DFCS to obtain federal reimbursement for the provision of child welfare services, including preventive and foster care services, and could indicate the family’s eligibility to receive other services. Identifying services for which immigrant children and families may be eligible, and then making the appropriate referrals, is a critical aspect of protecting and serving Santa Clara County’s immigrant children and families.

The Immigration Services Committee provides internal and external resources to the DFCS staff regarding the specific needs of immigrant children in the child welfare system.  The Committee provides consultations to social workers at all levels: VFM, ER, DI, Continuing and Adoptions.

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DFCS Policy on Immigration Status  

It is DFCS policy only to ask clients about immigration status if a program or service to which DFCS wishes to refer that client makes eligibility determinations based on immigration status or when an inquiry is necessary for reimbursement purposes. 

Further, DFCS employees shall not disclose immigration status information to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS", formerly Immigration and Naturalization Services, "INS") or any person or agency, including law enforcement, without first consulting with a supervisor and County Counsel.

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Child Welfare System Flowchart   Social workers must recognize the importance of collecting culturally crucial information as part of the evaluation of the case plan so as to identify and integrate relevant immigration information as it affects the sequence of decisions regarding cases in the child welfare system.  The purpose of the flow chart below is to illustrate how and when immigration issues may arise during the timeline of a child welfare case.

Child Welfare System Flowchart
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Identifying the Need for Immigration Services  

DFSC staff should be sensitive to the fact that many immigrants are reluctant to interact with government officials or employees for fear of being reported to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS", formerly known as Immigration and Naturalization Service or "INS".)  Therefore, staff members should not inquire about immigration and/or United States citizenship status until after they have engaged the family and explained the purpose of the inquiry.  Information obtained by DFCS, including immigration status of family members, is confidential.  Staff should first consult with supervisors before communicating any information about an undocumented or documented immigrant.

The best way to determine whether a foster child might need immigration assistance is to look at his or her birth certificate. If the child has a U.S. birth certificate, that child is a United States citizen and does not need immigration assistance. To get a copy of a foreign birth certificate, take the child to the consulate of his or her home country. If possible, obtain a copy of the child’s birth certificate and collect other relevant documents, including a foreign passport and dispositions in any family court or criminal or delinquency proceedings, to facilitate the status adjustment process. 

Immigrant families with immigration issues, including undocumented status, can and should be referred to certain agencies for free legal assistance or case consultation.  (See Immigration Attorneys for further guidance/contact information.)  DFCS has a special contract with Catholic Charities to assist child welfare staff.

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Notifying a Consulate when a Child Who is a Citizen of the Country Represented by the Consulate is Taken into Temporary Custody  

DFCS has entered into an agreement with the Mexican Consulate addressing the protocol when Mexican nationals becomes involved with the child welfare system.  This protocol is to be applied to all clients with citizenship in countries other than the United States.

When a child is taken into temporary custody, the social worker:

  • Determines the child's citizenship/resident status.
If the child is .. Then the social worker..

Is a citizen of a country other than the United States

Contacts the Consulate of the child's country of birth and notifies that consulate staff that the child is in temporary custody.

Has dual citizenship (U.S. and another country) or is eligible for dual citizenship status

  • Offers to contact the consulate, if the parents state that they want the consulate included in their case.

 

 

If a petition is filed on behalf of a child who.. Then the social worker..
Is a citizen of a country other than the United States
  • Notifies the child's consulate of the date, time and location of the Jurisdictional/Dispositional Hearing.
    • Notifications to consulates are made preferably by fax but may also be made by telephone or email.
    • See the following Confidentiality paragraphs.

  • Documents the notification in CWS/CMS Contact Notes.
Has dual citizenship (U.S. and another country) or is eligible for dual citizenship status
  • Offers to contact the consulate, if the parents state that they want the consulate included in their case.

 

Confidentiality

The Consulate may come to court to request permission to attend a juvenile dependency hearing.  However, the Consulate is not a party to the matter and may not receive documents from the case file, including court reports, without approval from the Court. (WIC § 827)

The parents and child's names and addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers, and a brief and general overview of the parents' situation can be provided to the Consulate.

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Language Issues  

Speakers of any language may report abuse or neglect to the Child Abuse and Neglect Center.  It might not always be possible to determine if a family needs an interpreter before making the home visit.  A person's native language is not necessarily evident from his or her name; what appears to be a Spanish surname could be Portuguese, or the individual might speak an indigenous Latin American language and not be proficient in Spanish. 

Under State regulations, DFCS is required to ask clients their preferred language for oral and written communication and to document the preferred language(s) in the client's case file.  Further, the Department must offer and provide interpreter services, upon request, in the language the client has specified for oral communication.  Clients are not prohibited from providing their own interpreter, though the Department cannot require them to do so. It is prohibited to use minor children as interpreters, except temporarily under extenuating circumstances or at the specific request of the client.  These regulations are in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

See OPP Chapter 2-4: Identifying the Client's Primary Language

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Working with Immigrant Families in DFCS Context  
  • The social worker never inquires as to the legal status of the family, unless required in order to determine eligibility for services. 
  • If the social worker learns that family members are undocumented, a report to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS) is never made.
    • The social worker may wish to inform the family of this DFCS policy, if asked.
  • If the family tells the social worker that family members are undocumented, the social worker:
    • Advises the family  that they have a right to contact their local national consulate.
    • Makes efforts to find needed services that the family can access and/or for which the family qualifies. 
      • The parents may be referred to parenting classes and other free services offered or contracted through DFCS.
      • Family Preservation money may be requested to fund certain services. 
    • May document the information, if it pertains to needed services and/or the case plan.
      • For example, if, as part of the child abuse report, a reporter indicates that a woman is being abused and is fearful of seeking help because she is undocumented, that information should be documented in some way to alert the responding worker that referrals for DV advocacy might be indicated.
      • Referrals to services must be documented, including, for example, a referral to Catholic Charities for immigration services.

  • Legal status, in and of itself, is not documented in the case file or contact notes, if there is no connection to services needed by the family.
    • For example, a referral to parenting classes would not be connected to a person's legal status.
  • Do not refer to the family's immigration status in a petition, unless the status is relevant to the issues in the allegations.
    • Consult with County Counsel for wording of petition language, if the allegation involves disclosure of a person's immigration status.
  • Discuss the legal status in a court report only if and as it pertains to recommended services and the case plan.
  • If an undocumented child was removed from the family and in out-of-home care, the social worker applies for PRUCOL.
  • If an undocumented child begins receiving permanency planning services, consult with DFCS staff regarding an application for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).
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Cultural Engagement and Assessment Tool  

The Cultural Engagement and Assessment Tool is useful in assisting the social worker to determine to  additional stressors the family is experiencing as a result of being an immigrant to the United States.  It guides the social worker in developing a case plan to meet the specific needs of the immigrant family.   Click here to access the tool.

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PRUCOL  

Children who are undocumented are only eligible for restricted Medi-cal benefits, and, upon entering foster care placement, costs may need to be paid from all-county funds.  Therefore, when a child becomes a dependent of the court and is placed in out-of-home care, the social worker must explore PRUCOL (Permanent Residence Under the Color of Law) status for the child.  A PRUCOL application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows that agency to recognize the court dependent status of a child.  Through the PRUCOL process, DFCS is informed by the USCUS if there is any pending action that would limit the child's U.S. residence, eg. a deportation action being pursued.  PRUCOL allows the Social Services Agency/Department of Eligibility Benefits (DEBS) to explore approval of full-scope medi-Cal and federal or state funding for the child.  PRUCOL is not a separate U.S. citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS) classification (such as Lawful Permanent Resident Amnesty, etc.), and no immigration benefits result from it.

For additional information regarding applying for PRUCOL, please consult with DFCS staff ( click link or view list below).


See OPP Chapter 18-2.3: PRUCOL - Permanent Residence Under the Color of Law.

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Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)  

Dependent children who are neither U.S. citizens nor lawful permanent residents and who begin receiving permanency planning services under DFCS supervision are eligible to legalize their immigrant status. The procedures which give a child Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) are dependent both on foster care status and the timely filing of an application.  Workers should promptly bring any such situation to the attention of the DFCS County Counsel.  Because discharge from foster care can impact a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status application, workers should consult with County Counsel and immigration attorneys prior to the child’s discharge from foster care to "independent living" or dismissal of the case.

See OPP Chapter 13-20.2: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).

For additional information regarding applying for SIJS, please consult with DFCS staff ( click link or view list below).

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Violence Against Women Act  

A collection of federal laws, known generally as "VAWA" (Violence Against Women Act), is designed to protect immigrant abused spouses and children who are afraid to seek police protection because the domestic violence perpetrator has threatened to withhold immigration status from the victims if they do so.  These laws enable battered spouses and children to obtain lawful immigration status without sponsorship from their abusive partners.  In order to be eligible, the batterer must be either a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder).  No relief is available under these specific laws if the DV perpetrator is neither a United States citizen nor a legal permanent resident.  If you think a parent or child who has been battered might qualify for a legal status under these circumstances, there are many organizations that can assist with the application process. You should make an appropriate referral immediately to one of the local domestic violence services agency.  Often, domestic violence shelters have attorneys specially trained to do these types of "VAWA" self-petitions.

For additional information regarding VAWA, please consult with DFCS staff ( click link or view list below).

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U-Visas   

U-Visas come under the provision of the Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2007.  This type of immigration relief encourages victims of violent crime to report to law enforcement without worry about their own immigration status. Applicants, who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse, must be able to cooperate with law enforcement in the prosecution of the crime where they were victims (Domestic Violence, battery and rape fall under this category).  Law enforcement must certify that the victim is assisting in the prosecution of the perpetrator of the abuse.  The perpetrator need not be convicted as long as the victim has aided the prosecutorial process.  Applicants for the U-Visa must not have been convicted of aggravated felony.  The U-Visa is about the crime itself and not the status of the perpetrator or victim.  The U-Visa is another type of immigration relief available to victims of violent crime when VAWA is not an option.  It is imperative to have assistance from a qualified immigration attorney.

For additional information regarding U-VisasL, please consult with DFCS staff ( click link or view list below).

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Nonimmigrant Status T-Visas

 

In October 2000, Congress created the “T” nonimmigrant status by passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). The legislation strengthens the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking, and also offer protection to victims. Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers lure individuals with false promises of employment and a better life. Traffickers often take advantage of poor, unemployed individuals who lack access to social services. The T Nonimmigrant Status (T visa) is a set aside for those who are or have been victims of human trafficking and protects victims of human trafficking by allowing victims to remain in the United States to assist in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking.

The statute allows victims to remain in the United States if it is determined that such victims could suffer, "extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm" if returned to their home countries. After three years with the T status, victims of human trafficking may apply for permanent residency.

 You may be eligible for a T visa if you:

  • Are or were a victim of trafficking, as defined by law
  • Are in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry due to trafficking·
  • Comply with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking (or you are under the age of 18, or you are unable to cooperate due to physical or psychological trauma)
  • Demonstrate that you would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if you were removed from the United States.

For additional information regarding T-Visas, please consult with DFCS staff ( click link or view list below).

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 Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

 

 Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer action to remove an individual from the United States.  It is regarded as an act of prosecutorial discretion.  It is written assurance that the youth will not be deported for two-year period.  The youth can have work authorization for that same two-year period and must show economic necessity.  It is renewable for an additional two-year period if not terminated. Under DACA, applicants are eligible for SSN and, in most states, a driver’s license.

For additional information regarding DACA, please consult with DFCS staff ( click link or view list below).

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Other Issues Related to Immigration and DFCS  
  • Dual Citizenship

The United States recognizes dual citizenship under some circumstances. Children who may have dual citizenship should be considered United States citizens, but DFCS may still be required to contact the consulate general of the other country of citizenship. If such contact is necessary, contact Catholic Charities or other immigration service agency.

  • Temporary (Protective) Custody

In the case where a child who is not a United States citizen is taken into temporary custody (removed from the home), DFCS may be required to notify the consulate general of the child’s country of citizenship. Staff should contact County Counsel working on the case in this situation.  They should also inform the family members that it is their right to contact their home country’s consulate for assistance, if they so wish.

  • Kinship Care

DFCS is required to seek suitable relatives for kinship care. Undocumented relatives can be considered as a resource for children. For all persons, including undocumented relatives, to  be considered as foster parents, however, they must be able  to demonstrate visible means of financial support other than the foster care rate and they must meet the other criteria for becoming kinship resources. Note that relatives residing outside the  United States CAN be considered as a placement resource for children in foster care. Organizations are available to arrange for home studies in other countries to explore relatives as placement resources. See the list of DFCS staff resources for further information. 

  • Adoption

When the Court has ordered the plan of adoption for a child with relatives who live abroad, the social worker:

  • Completes the Out-of-Country Adoption Staffing Referral From (SCZ94)
  • Attaches to the SCZ94:
    • The child's birth certificate
    • The DIF Assessment
    • Any document related to Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, if applicable
  • Submits the SCZ94 with attachments to the social work supervisor of the Resource Family Unit.
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Education and Immigrant Children  

Regardless of their immigration status, all children are entitled to a free public education in their local school district. In fact, they are required to attend school until they are 18 years of age.

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DFCS Staff Resource Contacts  
  • Adoptions
    • Rhoda Cheung, SWS

    (408)501-6312

  • Adoption Home Studies (DIF/Mexico)
    • Patricia Avila, SWIII
      (408) 501-6809
  • Cal-WORKS/ Child Welfare Refugees
    • Maria Savin, Eligibility Program Cooridnator

    (408)755-7540

    • Adele Villarreal, Eligibility Program Cooridnator
  • (408)755-7540

  • Citizenship Information
    • Ed Sanchez, GFRC

    (408)758-3407

  • Continuing Services Bureaus
    • Connie Vega, SSPMIII

    (408)501-6607

    • Alma Duarte, SWS
  • (408)501-6715

  • Early Intervention (ER) & Court Intervention (DI)Bureau
    • Miday Tovar, SSPMI

    (408)501-6715

    • Angel Kelly, SWS- Emergency Response

    (408)501-6451

    • Yazmina Letona, SWS - Dependent Intake

      (408)501-6459

  • Educational Services
    • Keith Rivera, SWCII
      (408) 501-6521
  • Family Conferences/TDM
    • Leticia Gonzalez, SWS

(408)793-8826

  • Independent Living Program for Youth
    • Carla Macia, SWCII

    (408)501-6836

  • KinGAP
    • Foster Care Eligibility Main Line

    (408) 271-7400

  • Legal Consultations
    • Julie McKellar, County Counsel
      408-491-4242
  • Liaison with Mexican Consulate
    • Jaime Lopez, DFCS Deputy Director

    (408) 501-6802

    • Connie Vega, SSPM III, Service Bureau B

    (408)501-6607

    • Miday Tovar, SSPMI, Early Intervention (ER) Bureau

    (408) 501-6521

  • PRUCOL/Foster Care Eligibility
    • Gerardo Silva, SSPM - Foster Care Eligibility
      (408) 271-7442
  • Public Notary Services
    • Robin Rivas, OMC, Continuing Services Bureaus
      (408)501-6674
    • Rose Bacani, Legal Clerk- Family & Permanency Bureau
      (408)501-6307
    • Maria Guerrero (Spanish), Legal Clerk - Court Intervention (DI) Bureau
      373 W. Julian, 2nd floor
      (408) 501-6442
 
  • Public Charge, BCIS Assessments, Strategic Planning
    • Jaime Lopez , Deputy Director, DFCS

    (408) 501-6802

    • Miday Tovar, SSPMI
  • (408) 501-6521

  • Social Security Income for Disabled Foster Children
    • Hieu T. Tran, SSI Coordinator, II
    • (408)271-7445
    • Alma Duarte, SWS
    • (408)501-6715
  • Special Immigration Juvenile Status cases
    • Miday Tovar, SSPMI
      (408)501-6521
    • Alma Duarte, SWS
      (408) 501-6715
  • Training for DFCS
  • Linda Martinez, Sr. Staff Development Specialist
  • (408)755-7073
  • Transporting Children to Mexico

Children Across Borders Program

  • Mirna Lau, SWIII, Continuing Services

(408) 501-6648

  • Christina R. Martinez, SWIII, Non-Minor Dependent Unit

(408)501-6838

  • Sylvia Roque, SWII, Dependent Intake

(408)501-6504

  • VAWA/u-Visas/T-Visas
    • Alma Duarte, SWS
      (408)501-6715
    • Enrique Alvarez, SWIII

    (408)501-6603

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Related Web Sites  
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Source Documents  
PDF Immigration and Naturalization Resource and Practice Guide/Santa Clara County, Dept. of Family and Children's Services
PDF Agency Memorandum #03-13:  Immigration Services: Part 1 - Internal Support Resources
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Other References  
bullet OPP Chapter 13-20.1: Placing Children In and Returning Children From Mexico
bullet POPP Chapter 13-20.2: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
bullet OPP Chapter 13-20.3: Immigration and Naturalization: Information and Resources
bullet2 Cultural Engagement and Assessment Tool
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