Detained Children's Program

The Detained Unaccompanied Children’s Program serves over one thousand detained immigrant children. All services we provide are free. We provide legal services to immigrant children detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at juvenile immigration detention centers in Maryland and Virginia. The facilities include large shelter programs, secure detention facilities, shelters for tender age children, and long-term foster care programs (group home and foster home settings).


Each year 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 their home countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. After children are detained at the border typically by Customs and Border Patrol, within 72 hours they are typically transferred to the custody of ORR, which then places them in any one of dozens of detention centers throughout the United States, pending possible reunification with family members or  longer term care while their immigration cases are resolved.


We provide free legal services to all detained children in ORR juvenile detention centers in Virginia and Maryland. These services include:

  • legal orientation through “Know Your Rights” presentations,
  • individual legal screenings and consultations,
  • initial immigration court appearances,
  • legal referrals, and
  • 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 served by our talented in-house attorneys or one of our pro bono partners.  We provide trauma-sensitive, client-centered representation and deeply value our clients' autonomy.

Our clients are often eligible for visas to stay in the United States because their safety is at risk in their home countries. We assist these children in their underlying immigration deportation proceedings and with applications for immigration relief, such as asylum, special immigrant juvenile visa, and visas based on their status as victims of sex and labor trafficking.

Recognizing the complex needs of the children and families we work with, we have a growing social services program. Although the program was only launched in February 2019, the social services team 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.

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



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