Cayuga Centers Provides Foster Care and Services For Unaccompanied Children

Jun 21, 2018

The United States Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) recently granted permission to all of its contract agencies to provide general information about the services they provide. Cayuga Centers is providing this information in accordance with ORR policy as well as in response to multiple media inquiries. For further questions regarding programs that serve unaccompanied children, please contact the United States Administration for Children and Families, Office of Communications at (202) 401-9215. 

Cayuga Centers is a New York not-for-profit agency that serves children and families in the states of New York, Delaware and Florida. In addition to providing programs for persons with developmental disabilities as well as trauma-focused counseling services to children and families, it also provides foster care programs through contracts with state and federal agencies. Under contract with ORR, Cayuga Centers runs two foster care programs for unaccompanied children (UC). Unaccompanied children are defined under federal law as youths (1) under the age of eighteen (18), (2) who do not yet have lawful immigration status, and (3) for whom there is no legal guardian available in the United States to provide care and physical custody.

Cayuga Centers plays no role in the apprehension or initial detention of unaccompanied children or their family members prior to ORR’s referral to its foster care program.

Unaccompanied children programs were established as a result of the Flores v. Reno settlement agreement. The Flores settlement agreement set national standards for the treatment and placement of unaccompanied children. It provides that these children be placed in the least restrictive environment, receive services that go to ensuring their safety, health and well-being, and be released to a parent, legal guardian, or family member without unnecessary delay. The requirements of Flores are described and elaborated upon in ORR policy, which is publicly available at:

Cayuga Centers is proud of the fact that the standards for its UC foster programs meet or exceed all ORR requirements. Cayuga Centers provides the following services to all unaccompanied children referred to its program:

1)    Foster Care: All UC are placed with highly trained, bilingual and culturally matched foster parents whose homes have been certified in accordance with New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) regulations.

2)    Medical: All UC receive full physicals, including immunization and treatment for any illnesses, upon their arrival at Cayuga Centers. Thereafter, Cayuga Centers provides ongoing medical care through its clinic as well as referral to outside specialists.

3)    Education: Cayuga Centers provides a day program for all UC that includes lessons in math, English, science and social studies, as well as practical life skills. The purpose of Cayuga’s education program is to prepare youth to enroll in schools following reunification with family members in the United States.

4)    Recreation: Cayuga Centers ensures that all UC have daily access to physical activities, including organized sports and play, utilizing the many green spaces that New York City has to offer. UC also take field trips to local attractions such as zoos, museums, and historical landmarks.

5)    Mental Health: Cayuga Centers provides trauma-focused counseling services to all UC on a weekly or greater basis as needed. All UC receive at least weekly individual sessions with a therapist trained in trauma-focused interventions as well as group therapy. Cayuga Centers also makes referrals to affiliate social services agencies who provide specialized mental health services for any youth who are in need of a higher level of care.

6)    Reunification: Upon ORR’s placement of a UC with Cayuga Centers, staff members begin working diligently to identify a sponsor to whom the child may be released. Sponsors may be parents, siblings, grandparents, or extended family members of the child, or they may be non-blood relatives who have a close relationship to the child. All sponsors are thoroughly vetted via background checks and some require home studies before a youth may be released to their care. Should a child express the desire to repatriate to his/her country of origin, Cayuga Centers staff will assist in ensuring their safe return. For youth who desire to stay in the U.S., who have a potential claim for legal immigration status, and for whom no sponsor can be identified, Cayuga may refer the youth to an ORR-funded long-term foster care program.

7)    Legal: Cayuga Centers works in partnership with Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York to provide legal screening and representation to all UC youth. Catholic Charities provides education to all UC regarding their legal rights and ensures that they are adequately represented in any immigration proceeding that may take place while the UC is with Cayuga Centers.

Every day, Cayuga Centers staff members go far beyond the requirements of their jobs in ensuring the safety and comfort of all unaccompanied children referred to their program. Cayuga staff members make themselves available 24 hours a day to meet youth upon their arrival to New York City. At any hour of the day, staff are there to ensure that newly arrived youth are fed nutritious food, provided essentials such as clothes and toiletries, educated about their rights, seen by a medical professional to address any health concerns, and quickly transferred to the comfort of a foster home in which they are treated with care and respect.

Cayuga Centers is proud of its work serving many vulnerable populations. Its commitment to providing the highest quality foster care and services to unaccompanied children is no different. We are proud of the fact that, since our unaccompanied children program began in 2013, we have reunited more than six thousand (6,000) children with sponsors in the United States.

We will continue to work diligently to ensure that all of the children in our care are reunited with those who love them. 


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