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July 18, 2018
Contact: HHS Press Office
[email protected]

The Trump Administration Plan for Reunifying Children

Below is a summary of the reunification process that the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security (DHS), and Justice (DOJ) are implementing for eligible children over 5 years of age who may have been separated from their parents.

This document is intended to educate the public about the detailed interdepartmental reunification plan presented to the court. It does not represent new policy.

Read the full plan here

  • HHS, DHS, and DOJ are working rapidly to reunify children and their parents who are class members under the orders by District Judge Dana Sabraw of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
  • Following successful reunification of eligible children under 5 with parents in the United States as of July 12 (Stage I), the three departments are working to reunify all eligible children over the age of 5 by July 26 (Stage II).
  • The two stages together include all eligible parents who are or were in DHS custody, and all eligible children in HHS custody, who may have been separated at the border. 
  • Both stages include children and parents who were separated at the border by DHS to allow for the parents’ prosecution under the Zero Tolerance policy, as well as children and parents separated at the border for other reasons.
  • The key steps in the tri-department plan for reunifying a parent and child in government custody include:
    1. HHS reviews a summary of the DHS-performed criminal background check on the adult.
    2. HHS reviews its case file to make a determination of parentage or to identify red flags of possible non-parentage or trafficking.
    3. HHS reviews its case file to make a determination of fitness and safety or to identify red flags that the adult is unfit or poses a danger to the child.
    4. Absent red flags, HHS conducts an in-person interview of any adult in DHS custody at a DHS reunification location.
    5. Absent red flags, HHS moves the child to the reunification location, where the child is turned over to DHS custody and reunification is completed by DHS.
  • In cases where red flags have been raised, HHS engages in further inquiry as appropriate.  HHS will not reunify absent a determination of parentage, fitness, and safety.
  • For parents who have been separated from children who are no longer physically in ICE custody, HHS will coordinate with the parents directly.
  • The departments expect to modify the current plan as appropriate based on operational considerations and any new instructions from the court.

There are 5 key steps in the tri-department plan for reunifying a parent and child in government custody.


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other news materials are available at https://www.hhs.gov/news.
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Last revised: July 18, 2018

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