A Call to Action: Re-imagining Social Work Practice With Unaccompanied Minors

Keywords: migrant, unaccompanied minor, unaccompanied child, promising practices, Central America, northern triangle, family reunification


In the decade leading up to 2012, approximately 8,000 Unaccompanied Minors (UAM) arrived annually at the Southwestern border of the United States. Since then, the number of arrivals has drastically increased, surpassing 14,000 between October 1, 2017 and January 31, 2018 alone. The needs of UAM concerning mental health, education, social, and legal counseling often differ from the needs of other Latinx and immigrant populations. However, recent instability in the protections and services tailored to UAM are channeling these youth and their families into mainstream agencies. This article is a call to action for social workers who may now encounter UAM for the first time in their practice. Drawing from almost twelve years of practice experience working with UAM and their families, as family case managers, community liaisons, program managers, grant administrators, and training facilitators, we review needs, services, and promising practices for social work practice with UAM. Recommendations include providing education to parents and caregivers about UAM’s rights, U.S. laws and regulations, and service availability; building trust and rapport with families; creating welcoming schools; practicing cultural openness; hiring diverse staff; and fostering partnerships with local service providers.

Author Biographies

Kerri Evans, Boston College

Doctoral Student, LCSW

School of Social Work

Kylie Diebold, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Service
Children’s Services Specialist
Rocío Calvo, Boston College

Associate Professor

School of Social Work


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