KIND Statement on Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Final Unaccompanied Children Program Foundational Rule to Codify Flores Settlement Agreement

April 25, 2024

Washington, DC, April 25, 2024 – The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) recently published for public inspection a final Unaccompanied Children Program Foundational Rule intended to codify the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA) as it applies to ORR, along with additional policies to advance children’s well-being. Signed in 1997 and rooted in fundamental child welfare principles, the Flores Settlement Agreement provides national minimum standards and policy for the care, treatment, and release of children in the U.S. immigration system.  

The FSA calls for developing regulations that may ultimately terminate the settlement, if federal courts determine that the regulations fully implement the FSA’s terms. The current rulemaking by ORR, which follows similar efforts by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services under the prior Administration, significantly impact unaccompanied children and the availability of continued court oversight to ensure the government’s compliance with these foundational protections.  

KIND’s President Wendy Young offered the following comment on the final rule’s publication:  

“Unaccompanied children come to the United States in search of protection from life-threatening dangers, including war, violence, abuse, and trafficking. These children, including thousands of KIND’s clients, are extremely vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation as they search for protection. It is imperative that ORR, and the whole of government, leverage the necessary expertise and resources to ensure children can find safety, begin to heal, and access any legal protections for which they qualify. 

KIND strongly supports ORR’s efforts to codify the Flores Settlement Agreement and the agency’s commitment to updating policies and regulations to reflect child welfare best practices. We are heartened by the rule’s emphasis on improving existing safeguards, including language access, and creating an unaccompanied children’s Ombuds Office. 

We are concerned, however, that the regulation fails to provide adequate oversight of facilities used to house children. “By adding flexibility to the requirement that facilities be state licensed to care for dependent children, the door is open to using facilities that do not provide adequate care and protection. While KIND acknowledges developments in several states that limit licensing of facilities housing unaccompanied children, the final rule’s provisions and the potential that court oversight may be eliminated in the future places at risk facilities’ compliance with basic child welfare standards.”  



Media Contact: Megan McKenna,, 202-631-9990