Building the Capacity of Pediatric Specialists to Serve Minors Seeking Immigration Relief

November 15, 2022

In 2021, more than 89 million people were forced to flee their home due to conflict, persecution, violence, human rights violations, or other events seriously disturbing the public order, and approximately 41% were children. Many of these children and families are fleeing gang violence, child abuse, extreme poverty, and malnutrition. As a result, an increasing number of children are in need of medical and psychological asylum evaluations to support their asylum petitions in immigration court. At the same time, there is a shortage of pediatric medical and mental health providers who are trained to do asylum evaluations. In response to these gaps in training and service, pediatric clinical psychologist, Dr. Rebecca Ford-Paz, and child abuse pediatrician and division head, Dr. Norell Rosado, stepped forward to create a Forensic Assessment for Immigration Relief (FAIR) Clinic at Lurie Children’s. As the only pediatric program of its kind in Illinois, FAIR Clinic provides pro bono, trauma-informed forensic medical and psychological evaluations to child and adolescent survivors of torture, persecution, or other human rights abuses who are seeking asylum or other forms of humanitarian relief in the United States.

The FAIR program has four main objectives:

  • Increase access to medical and psychological asylum evaluation for children and adolescents who have experienced trauma in their homeland or during migration
  • Train the next generation of pediatric healthcare providers to be able to provide these evaluations. 
  • Conduct research that documents medical and psychological needs of this population as well as informs best practices for forensic evaluations with pediatric populations seeking immigration relief.
  • Advocate for social justice in healthcare for this population both within Lurie Children’s and in the local, state, and federal contexts.

Dr. Ford-Paz co-chairs the Lurie Children’s Immigrant Family Learning Collaborative and is on the Steering Committee of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant Mental Health and the Midwest Human Rights Consortium. She is also the Co-chair of the Mental Health and Wellness Subcommittee of the Chicago is With You Task Force in the Mayor’s Office of New Americans, tasked with operationalizing the Welcoming City ordinance in the City of Chicago.