Report Abstract

Family separation as a result of deportation of immigrant parents living in the U.S. triggers both family trauma and economic impact to the State. A child’s separation from their parents can induce depression, anxiety and aggression, which could create long-lasting negative impacts and reduce their likelihood of succeeding socially, academically and economically. With respect to the economic repercussions in Florida, the projection of massive deportations due to federal immigration policies will overburden the foster care system with an influx of children of deportees and concurrently encumber the State’s budget.Therefore, it is crucial for the foster care system to re-evaluate protocols to reduce the psychological impacts on affected families and to secure the necessary resources to alleviate the anticipated economic burden. Eleven “Action Steps” to reduce the effects of family separation include; 1) the utilization of a coding system for these cases, 2) establishing community liaisons, 3) creating MOUs with foreign consulates and communication plans with parents. These are some of the key elements to achieving the foster care mission of family reunification.

To download the report, scroll down to the Downloadable Reports Section.

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Family Separation in the Sunshine State: Preparing for the Traumatic Impact and Economic Costs of Immigrant Parent Deportation on Florida’s Child Welfare System

Family separation as a result of parental deportation of immigrants living in the USA triggers both child and family trauma and economic impact to the state. A childs separation from their parents is an adverse childhood experience that can induce depression, anxiety, and aggression and could create long-lasting negative impacts and reduce their likelihood of succeeding socially, academically, and economically.

Recommendations and action steps for responding to separated families and immigrant children entering the child welfare system are offered.


Concise Action Steps

Designed to engage a broad range of individuals and agencies serving children of immigrants, “Mobilizing to Defend Families Impacted by Interior Immigrant Parent Detention: Action Steps to Reduce Trauma & Ensure Parental Rights” provides an overview of what needs to change to reduce childhood trauma, defend parental rights and enact steps for family reunification.

Children of undocumented parents in Florida
Children of parents with TPS in Florida
Median cost of Foster Care per year in Florida
Cost of 500 additional children into Foster Care in Florida


Immigration raids occurring in the late spring and summer of 2018, highlighted the aggressive intent of the current administration to deport undocumented immigrants living within the U.S. What was also made clear was the lack of attention to the collateral consequences impacting affected families, family separation.

Fallout over the handling of the separation of families, during the same time frame at the U.S/Mexico border, created actions traumatic to children, failing to ensure a clear plan towards family reunification. This failure by the federal government is also potentially replicable at the state level. Child Welfare agencies in Florida, and throughout the U.S., do not have a plan to handle family separation as a result of parental detention or deportation. These separations, denoted by foster care and child welfare reports as abandonment, reflect a lack of insight and commitment to the mandate to fulfill Florida’s DCF Mission “…to work in partnership with local communities to protect the vulnerable, promote strong and economically self-sufficient families, and advance personal and family recovery and resiliency” (“Mission, Vision, and Values”, n.d.).

“Family Separation in the Sunshine State” intends to increase focus on the immense repercussions of federal policy and the urgent need to develop protocols and policies that will address the traumatic impact and economic cost that Florida will need to assume.


Downloadable Reports

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary provides an overview of the challenges facing the child welfare system.

Family Separation in the Sunshine State Report

“Family Separation in the Sunshine State” outlines the economic costs and traumatic impact of family separation due to parental detention or deportation.

Action Steps

These 11 Action Steps outline critical actions Florida child welfare should implement to support family reunification.

Downloadable Appendices

Detention and Removal of Alien Parents or Legal Guardians

This Directive provides guidance regarding the detention and removal of alien parents and legal guardians of a minor child(ren).


Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997

This act outlines the 1997 law requiring “reasonable efforts to prevent removal and work towards permanency” for separated families.


Case Planning and Service Delivery for Families

This Information Memorandum (IM) emphasizes the importance of child welfare agencies assessing and providing appropriate services to a child in foster care with a parent detained or deported.


Family Preparedness Plan

This packet will help everyone create a Family Preparedness Plan, regardless of immigration status.


Family Safety Brochure (in Spanish)

This Spanish-language brochure advises families of 5 steps to improve immigrant family safety.


Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney is an option for families to arrange for custodial care should families be separated by detention or deportation.


Downloadable Supplemental Materials


Child Welfare System

Florida’s Child Welfare System: A Roadmap to Protecting our Most Vulnerable


Child Protective Investigator

The responsibilities of the CPI.


Foster Care

What happens to a child entering foster care?


Cover letter for use of POA at schools and clinics

(English and Spanish)


Power of Attorney

(English and Spanish)


Credible Witness Jurat/Statement

In order to notarize the POA if parent does not have proper identification. Official documents must be in English.


Florida Administration Rule:
Alien Children
(65C – 9)


Special Immigrant Juvenile Status:

Information for Child Welfare Workers

Immigration Relief for Victims of Abuse


DCF Auxillary Aids

Persons with limited English

Report Team

Get to know our Authors

Jasmine Brito, J.D., Fellow, Immigrant Justice Corps, Catholic Legal Services of Florida

Farah Khan, B.A., George Washington University Law School

Robin Lewy, M.A., Rural Women’s Health Project

Fran Ricardo, B.S., Rural Women’s Health Project

Suzanna Smith, PhD, CFLE, University of Florida, IFAS, Family, Youth & Community Sciences

Martie Gillen, PhD, MBA, University of Florida, IFAS, Family, Youth & Community Sciences

Laura J. Ramirez Diaz, MPH, Rural Women’s Health Project

The authors welcome comments and suggestions. Please drop us a note at rwhp@cafl.com