Q: I am a social worker for a minor who immigrated to the U.S. with her parents as a child. She will soon turn 18 and wants to participate in extended foster care. As a non-citizen, will be she eligible? Also, is there a place where I can get free legal assistance with her specific case, not general guidance?
A: Yes, children and youth in foster care are considered qualified aliens. Provided she meets all other eligibility requirements, her immigration status does not disqualify her from participating in extended foster care. However, it is important that this individual applies for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), if she has not already. This is a special process that allows individuals under age 21, who cannot be reunited with a parent due to abuse, neglect or abandonment, to apply for a green card and remain in the United States legally.
Yes, you can get help with this specific case, along with free expert advice on a range of juvenile immigration issues, through a new initiative from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and the American Bar Association. This assistance is available to social workers, probations officers, CASAs, nonprofit providers or any other individual working with children and families in the dependency system.
To get help, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and identify your name, agency if relevant, county, and in what capacity you are involved in the dependency case. According the ILRC, email is the preferred first point of contact and follow up phone consults are available. The ILRC and ABA will usually be able to assist within 72 hours of the request. To learn more about the kind of help available, follow this LINK.