In our interactions with refugee resettlement staff, numerous workers have highlighted the need for practical tools that utilize a “train the trainer” approach and impact service delivery in the field. Many have also expressed uncertainty about the U.S. child welfare system and its function in relation to refugee families. In response to these concerns, we intend this toolkit to be a practical resource that will:

  1. Be a training guide for refugee resettlement staff to improve their understanding of how the child welfare system works, and how to access and assist clients in obtaining services.
  2. Provide a common vocabulary of child welfare terms, enabling refugee resettlement staff to make appropriate referrals for child welfare services.
  3. Dispel misconceptions about child welfare agencies and encourage stronger linkages between child welfare services and refugee resettlement agencies to utilize preventative techniques and ultimately keep refugee children and youth with their families, minimizing the need for child removal.
  4. Assist in the development of a network of services based on a common understanding of how and why the child welfare system works and increase partnerships between the resettlement system and child welfare; increase the responsiveness and cultural sensitivity to refugee children, youth and families, while building on their inherent strengths.
  5. Empower refugee resettlement staff to make referrals to child protective services as needed, recognizing the safety needs of refugee children and families.

We hope this resource will shed light on how the child welfare system works and inspire refugee resettlement workers and administrators to reach out and partner with child welfare agencies in their communities, thus providing more comprehensive services to assist new refugees integrating into communities across the United States.

Section 1: The Child Welfare System: An Overview

  • Goals and Services
  • Origin of the U.S. Child Welfare System
  • Child Abuse and Neglect
  • Making a CPS Report
  • Mandated Reporters
  • The Role of Child Protective Services (CPS)
  • Child Welfare Services Beyond CPS
  • The Courts
  • Child Labor

Section 2: Refugee Serving Agencies and the Child Welfare System

  • Helping Clients Who Are Reported to CPS
  • Building Bridges between Refugees and the Child Welfare System
  • References

Section 3: Resources

  • Resources Available on the BRYCS Website
  • Other Web-Based Resources


You can download the full toolkit here.

With this publication we hope to empower resettlement staff and other human service professionals to be better and stronger advocates for the refugee and immigrant clients they work with and assist them in negotiating the child welfare system. We hope this will help them build on knowledge and skills that they already possess and that they in turn will impart this information to their clients.
We extend a special thank you to Susan Schmidt, MSW who has partnered with BRYCS on numerous occasions and who researched and wrote this toolkit, titled Refugees and the U.S. Child Welfare System: Background Information for Service Providers. Laura Schmidt of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service conceived of this document, supervised its development and assisted with content and editing.
We are also thankful to the dedicated professionals in the field of child welfare who helped us to gain a more complete picture of the challenges and successes they have experienced in working with foreign-born populations, as well as gaining an understanding of where more information and education was needed. Specifically, we would like to thank: Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Children’s Services staff; Gina Fidazzo, BRYCS Consultant; Lyn Morland and Laura Gardner, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Catherine Nolan, Donna Hornsby, and Jane Morgan of the U.S. Department Of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau; Millicent Williams, Child Welfare League of America; Larry Burgess and Njeri Njoroge, Texas Department of Protective Services; Mary Flores, St. Vincent Catholic Charities, Lansing, MI; Ann Grove, World Relief—Moline, IL; Susan Oslund, International Social Service-USA Branch; Marla Schmidt, LIRS Consultant; and Craig Thoreson, Lutheran Social Ministry of the Southwest. We deeply appreciate the assistance of Information Crossroads in providing Web site, research and technical support for this resource.
Finally, we recognize the dedication and support of Sue Benjamin and the Office of Refugee Resettlement who have promoted refugee child welfare issues and who continue to envision ways to extend and improve services for refugee children, youth and families.