Special Problems of Custody for Unaccompanied Refugee Children in the United States

Part I of this note provides an overview of federal legislation regarding admissions of unaccompanied refugee children. Part II describes various obstacles to a smooth transition from the child’s admission into the United States to his or her placement by a state court with a permanent legal custodian who ensures that the child receives care and supervision. Problems in this area frequently result from uncertainties regarding long-term financial responsibility for the child. Also common are procedural difficulties in introducing unaccompanied refugee children into state child welfare systems. Part III then focuses on conflicts arising after the child’s placement, when the family either seeks the child’s repatriation or follows the child to the United States and attempts to regain custody.