Restoring Critical Protections for Unaccompanied Children
Understanding the Importance of State Licensing for Children in Federal Immigration Custody

Report cover with title and colorful street art depicting birds

All children – including unaccompanied children seeking safety when they arrive in the United States from all over the world – deserve protections that promote their health and well-being.

The Flores Settlement requires the federal government, with limited exception, to place unaccompanied children in state-licensed facilities while they wait to be released to sponsors in our communities. 

State child welfare licensing is a critical safeguard and oversight mechanism for unaccompanied children in federal immigration custody. State licensing agencies have the independence, infrastructure, and expertise to monitor facilities housing unaccompanied children and ensure they meet state child welfare standards. 

However, as this new briefing shows, this essential protection has eroded over the past several years as the federal government has increasingly placed immigrant children in unlicensed facilities.

This briefing provides policymakers and advocates: 

  • an overview of the modern child welfare consensus around family-based, state licensed care and the state licensing requirement in the Flores Settlement
  • the dangers of continued reliance on unlicensed facilities
  • recommendations to decrease the government’s reliance on unlicensed placements and restore the protections of state licensing.