How to Help Unaccompanied Immigrant Children in New Jersey

June 22, 2018

The treatment of children entering the United States at the southern border has dominated the news in recent weeks, with debate around their future reaching a fever pitch. A number of our fundholders have asked how they can use their fund to be helpful so we wanted to share the impact this issue is having in New Jersey. Since October 2014, the US Office of Refugee Resettlement has transferred more than 7,000 unaccompanied minors – children who have entered the country without family – to relatives or foster care in New Jersey.

All of these children, regardless of where they are placed, will eventually face a hearing in Federal court regarding their immigration status and we are of the view that children arriving alone to this country who seek relief from danger in their homelands need assistance in navigating the legal system. In New Jersey, the supply of free and low-cost attorneys available to represent these children is grossly inadequate. Only ten to fifteen percent of the children who need an attorney are able to retain one.

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The intervention we are supporting

With a goal of increasing representation, we have provided funds to support the efforts of non-profit organizations and law school clinics in New Jersey working together with private practice attorneys to provide professional representation and emotional support to unaccompanied children who currently reside in the state of New Jersey.

Starting in 2015, the Community Foundation of New Jersey, in partnership with interested fundholders, has supported the New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children through the work of a supporting attorney from the Rutgers Law Child Advocacy Clinic. This attorney has recruited, trained, and mentored pro bono attorneys to represent children in their immigration cases, thereby increasing the pool of attorneys equipped to handle cases. Last year, the attorney we support and the Consortium served nearly 700 children.

How you can participate

The work taking place in New Jersey has made good progress, but there is so much more work to do. And no matter how the current situation settles out (with children separated from families and showing up in facilities across the country), the work to assist the many thousands of children in New Jersey who are already here and who require assistance in putting forward their cases, will continue for many years to come.

A number of our fundholders have asked how they can help. There are two ways: you can give directly to some of the member organizations of the New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children doing exceptional work under duress:

Or you can contribute to the Community Foundation’s Unaccompanied Minors Fund. Your gift will enable us to ensure more unaccompanied minors in New Jersey have an attorney guiding them through an incredibly difficult period of their lives.

Consider giving via credit card or through your own donor advised fund.

To learn more about this challenging issue or our work, contact Margarethe Laurenzi at