How do I create a family preparedness plan?

The most important thing is to plan for childcare. Ensure that a responsible adult will be available to take care of your child or children if you are detained or deported. Write this plan down and make sure your friends and family are aware of it. Without worrying them, make sure your children understand that they will be taken care of in case of an immigration emergency.

When making your plan, you will have to decide what kind of childcare agreement you want to make with the adult you have chosen. You have several options, some more formal than others. Discuss your options, listed below, with your family and an attorney to determine which is the best fit for your situation.

INFORMAL AGREEMENT without LEGAL PAPERS or COURT - Just as you can have your children stay with a baby sitter without signing any papers, you can choose to have your children live with someone for a longer period of time without signing any papers. You simply need to talk to the person and get his or her verbal agreement that they will care for your children. This type of arrangement may work well for you if you expect to be detained for only a short time. Make sure that the caregiver you choose does not need public benefits in order to care for your children (like Medicaid or food stamps). Be sure to choose someone whom you trust, and make sure that there is no reason why anyone would object to this choice of caregiver.

INFORMAL AGREEMENT WITH LEGAL PAPERS without COURT - A Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit is a form to give to your child’s school or health care provider so a non-parent relative can enroll your child in public school, make school-related medical decisions, and make other important decisions on your child’s behalf if you are unable to. It allows non-relatives to enroll your child in school and to receive school-related medical treatment (though likely not the power to get public benefits such as Medicaid or food stamps for your children). A Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit does not affect your rights as your child’s parent – you still have custody and control of your child.

FORMAL Arrangement— Family court-approved custody - When you make court-approved arrangements, you may have two or three different options: 1) temporary custody (time-limited); 2) custody (also called conservatorship); or 3) guardianship. One option may provide greater parental rights than the other. These family court-approved custody arrangements provide greater stability for your children. They will give the caregiver the right to make decisions for your children, but be aware that they are more difficult to end.

For more information on how to create a family preparedness plan, including sample documents you and your loved ones can fill out, visit


FIRST STEPS: What to do as soon as possible after you are detained:

    Get your “A Number” (USCIS #). “A numbers” consist of the letter “A” followed by eight or nine digits. This is the identification number for individual’s immigration case and will follow the individual throughout the whole immigration process. It is very important to write down this number and provide to your children’s designated caretaker, your relatives, and close friends so they can stay updated about your case.
    Try to get released. Tell the processing staff (who put your information into the computer) at the detention center that you have children, especially if you are the only person who cares for them. Ask ICE if you can be released so you can care for them. It may be helpful to mention the ICE directive, “Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities,” when making this request.

    Keep asking if you can be released to care for your children, even if ICE does not release you at first. If you ask to be released but ICE will not release you, keep asking, especially if there are any changes to your children’s custody status or concern about their safety.
    Try to get a phone call. ICE is not required to give you a phone call but they may be willing to help if you explain that you have children and need to make sure they are okay and have someone to care for them.
    Request a bond hearing. You should also ask your Deportation Officer how to request release on Humanitarian Parole, Release on Recognizance, Supervised Release or Alternatives to Detention and how to request a bond hearing.

    Make sure your Deportation Officer (sometimes called a Case Officer) knows you have children, especially if you are a single parent or the main caregiver for your children. Ask him or her to exercise discretion in your case (“discretion” is a word that has a particular meaning for ICE, so use this word when asking).

ADDITIONAL STEPS: If ICE does not immediately release you, the next steps below may help:

    If you do not know where your children are, try to find out where they are as soon as you can. Once you find out where your children are, ask relatives or friends outside to put money into your detainee account so you can call and talk to your children and the person taking care of them. If this is not possible, tell ICE you need to make arrangements for your children and ask if you can make free calls to deal with child custody issues.If you think your children are not with a friend or family member and that they might be in the custody of a Child Family Service Agency (CFSA) (often called “CPS”), you should talk to your Deportation Officer and ask to contact the CFSA right away. CFSA has a 24-hour, toll-free Hotline here: 202-671-7233.Request a Family Court Lawyer to represent you if your child is in CFSA custody or there is a Family Court case.  Communicate with your child’s lawyer or the Law Guardian.Contact your country’s nearest Consulate. Register your children with the Consulate:  Your U.S. citizen children will keep their U.S. citizenship even if you register them with the consulate of your home country.  Apply for Passports for children - If you are deported and want to take your children with you, it will be much easier to do this if they have passports.Maintain Contact with your Children. You should stay as involved with your children as much as possible. You should write letters to them. You are allowed to receive letters and pictures from them even in detention. Take notes on everything you send to your children and receive from them, and save everything you receive. – Maintaining contact and involvement in your child’s care will be an important factor in any CFSA and/or Immigration case.Ask for Visitation. ICE will also facilitate parent-child visitation, to the extent practicable, when required by a family or dependency court or a child welfare authority AND documentation is provided of this requirement, including but not limited to: a reunification plan; a scheduling letter; or other documentation issued stating the visitation requirement.  It may be helpful to mention the ICE directive on “Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities” when making this request.Participate in all hearings related to the custody of your children either in person, by video (if available) or by telephone.  It is also good to have a relative or friend attend hearings, especially if you cannot be there. Alert Family Court or CFSA that your detention is CIVIL and not a criminal matter.  Provide A Number to CFSA/Family Court.You have the right to an interpreter in family court proceedings. ICE can also provide you with access to interpretation if you need help communicating with people in the immigration detention system. If you do not speak English or if you cannot read or write, do not be afraid to ask the family court, the child welfare caseworker, your lawyer(s) or ICE and detention center staff to provide you with an interpreter and/or other assistance.Do not sign any documents related to your immigration or child welfare case if you don’t understand what they say.If your children are in the child welfare system, you may be assigned a case plan (also called a service plan or a reunification plan). Make sure you do what is asked of you in the case plan because this will impact the outcome of your case. If you cannot do certain things that the plan requires because you are detained or have been deported, make sure everyone involved in the child welfare case knows this.  Do your best to complete the services required by the case plan.
  1. 3501

    This section is adapted from Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s info sheet “Family Preparedness Plan” (Mar. 2, 2017), available at