Washington, DC – Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) today praised a Biden Administration announcement that it has rescinded a multi-department Memorandum of Agreement that undermined client confidentiality and had a chilling effect on protecting unaccompanied children. The move was one of KIND’s key blueprint recommendations for the new administration and impacts information sharing between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
“Children seeking protection in the United States need unfettered access to mental health counseling and rapid reunification with a supportive sponsor who can care for them while the child goes through the immigration court process. These resources are vital to their physical and emotional wellbeing,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “With today’s announcement the Biden Administration is directing the Office of Refugee Resettlement to once again be what Congress intended, a child welfare agency, not an immigration enforcement agency. Today’s announcement will help to ensure that no child languishes needlessly in government custody and that caregivers can feel confident coming forward so children can rapidly move out of government shelters.”
As a result of today’s announcement, ORR will immediately end unwarranted information sharing practices with other agencies, including DHS and EOIR, that undermine the best interests of, and fair adjudications for, unaccompanied children. Specifically, HHS has terminated a May 2018 Memorandum of Agreement with DHS37. It has also made clear that the February 22, 2016 Memorandum of Agreement between the departments, which outlines the parameters for future information sharing. KIND has urged ORR to adopt policies that ensure the confidentiality of counseling and mental health services provided to unaccompanied children, including all related documentation, and prohibit sharing of confidential information concerning a child’s case with DHS or the immigration courts.
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