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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Refugee children in the child welfare system

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Today is World Refugee Day. At the end of 2011, 15.2 million people were refugees, with 46% being children under the age of 18. Currently it is estimated that there are more than 70,500 refugees in Minnesota; more than 3 million refugees have entered the U.S. since the Refugee Act of 1980 was passed. The current refugee ceiling (or limit) per year is 76,000.

iStock_000002215366Large.jpgDue to the very nature of being a refugee, refugee children and families who become involved in the child welfare system enter the system with very different trauma histories than U.S.-born children and their families. For example, in Minnesota, our Somali, Oromo, Hmong, and Karen refugees have trauma histories from civil wars, enslavement, military and government acts of violence, genocidal acts, forced removal from one's homeland, and extreme poverty from droughts and persecution. Therefore it is important for agencies and organizations to have culturally-sensitive policies and practice models in place in order to most effectively work with refugee families and their children.

BRYCS (Bridging Refugee Youth & Children's Services) has a guide entitled Serving Refugee Children in Foster Care: Fundamental Considerations that is useful for how agencies and workers can work to meet the special needs of refugee children in foster care, given their refugee status.

Oregon's Department of Human Services stands as an example of an agency policy developed specifically to meet the needs of refugee children and their families involved in child welfare; for example, it outlines conditions that must be met before removing a refugee child from his/her home, and most importantly, it gives an order of preference regarding with whom the child should be placed:

  1. Biological and legal parents;
  2. Extended family members who are 18 years of age or older;
  3. Members of the same cultural heritage; and finally
  4. Persons with knowledge and appreciation of the cultural heritage of the child.

Additionally, we have made available on our website cultural diversity resources as well as new population resources that anyone working directly or indirectly in child welfare may find useful. Most recently we have created three cultural guides on prominent immigrant populations in Minnesota - Hmong, Somali, and Latino.

Learn more about this year's World Refugee Day at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees website.

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