Caught in the Middle: Supporting Families Involved with Immigration and Child Welfare Systems

Roxana Torrico Meruvia, MSW

Child Welfare

Practice Perspectives


In the last decade, the U.S. immigrant population has dramatically increased. In 2011, there were an estimated 40 million immigrants in the U.S.; 11 million of these individuals were undocumented (Pew Research Center, 2013). Children living in immigrant families now represent the fastest growing segment of the child population. In fact, it is estimated that one in four children and youth have an immigrant parent or are immigrants themselves (Capps & Passel, 2004; Torrico, 2010; NASW, 2013). It has also been reported that as many as 5.5 million children are part of a mixed status family (Passel & Cohn, 2009) [See Key Terminology]. Unfortunately, due to immigration enforcement, many of these children are at risk of being separated from a parent at any time. While federal laws and policies that impact immigrants’ status have evolved as a result of the political, social and economic climate (Morgan & Polowy, 2010), the failure to reform outdated immigration laws and policies continues to have devastating and unintended outcomes on children and their families.

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