Detained Unaccompanied Children's Program

Our Detained Unaccompanied Children’s Program works with immigrant children detained at Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) juvenile immigration detention centers in Maryland and Virginia.

These facilities include large shelter programs, secure detention facilities, shelters for tender age children, and long-term foster care programs.

Our support consists primarily of free legal counsel, educational presentations, and social services. 

Each year, tens of thousands of children under the age of 18 enter the United States unaccompanied by a parent or other caregiver. The vast majority of these children are trauma survivors, fleeing horrific violence in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and elsewhere. After children are detained at the border - typically by Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) - they are transferred to any one of dozens of detention centers throughout the nation, pending possible reunification with family members or longer-term care, while their immigration cases are resolved.  

Legal Services & Education

Our legal services include:


Legal orientation through Know Your Rights presentations


Individual legal screenings & consultations


Initial immigration court appearances




Legal referrals


Post-18 planning services


We also offer free representation in immigration proceedings to all children who are released locally from ORR centers in Virginia and Maryland, and to children who face prolonged detention. Clients may be placed with our talented in-house attorneys or with one of our pro bono partners, mentored by CAIR Coalition staff.  We provide trauma-sensitive, client-centered representation and deeply value our clients' autonomy. 

Our clients are often eligible for immigration relief to stay in the United States because it is not in their best interest to return to, or they fear persecution in, their countries of origin. We assist these children with their applications for immigration relief, such as asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and visas based on their status as victims of sex- or labor-trafficking. 

Social Services

Recognizing the complex needs of the children and families alongside whom we work, we have a growing social services program

Since its launch in 2019, the social services program has connected dozens of clients – and their caregivers – with essential medical and mental health care, educational opportunities, housing resources, and crisis intervention, to ensure their well-being and safety. 

The social services team has recently also helped to bring joy back into the lives of children fleeing extreme violence, by providing them with soccer balls and other toys and games.    

We further support our clients during their important transition into their new communities by mobilizing community partners and offering a comprehensive range of case management services throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. 


Client Stories


Maya's Story

Maya is a child who is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a form of relief from deportation which requires that findings of fact be made by a state court. Maya was matched with pro bono legal counsel after having been screened by the Detained Children’s Program. Due to COVID-19, the Maryland courts operating virtually. Unfortunately, Maya did not have a laptop, and her phone did not have the capability to allow her to sign into a Zoom meeting to attend her hearing. Thanks to the social services program, Maya received a laptop, which enabled her to prepare for her hearing with her pro bono attorneys. She was then also able to attend her hearings virtually, and she and her attorneys were successful in getting the state court order which allowed her to continue with her application for immigration status. Without this laptop, Maya’s ability to meaningfully participate in the necessary court hearing would have been much more challenging, and would have put her at risk during the pandemic.  Maya also uses her laptop to log in to virtual school each day.

Join Us

Want to support more children as they fight for safety, security, and freedom? 

Check out our Get Involved page for more information on volunteering, donating, pro bono work, and other ways to join our mission. 


Sign up to stay involved

Enter your e-mail to receive legal updates, action alerts, and more!