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March 6 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm CST

Speaker Series: John Doering-White

Social Work and Anthropology, University of South Carolina
Care Under Pressure: Contradictions of Speedy Release and Quality Care in Programs for Unaccompanied Children
Hybrid: Virtual/In-Person (ABF Offices, 750 N Lake Shore Drive, 4th Floor Chicago, IL)

In recent years, record-breaking numbers of young people arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border have entered U.S. government custody as unaccompanied children (UC). Whereas prior research has focused on UC’s experiences while in custody and following release to a sponsor—usually a family member—limited scholarship has examined the experiences of human service professionals working within programs that are contracted by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to care for UC. In these programs, social workers, mental health clinicians, medical providers, educators, and transitional foster parents collaborate to provide care for UC while assessing the safety and suitability of the sponsoring context.

This presentation draws on 65 in-depth interviews with human service workers in ORR-contracted programs across four states to examine how they conceptualize care for UC during this transitional period. John Doering-White focuses on how two legal and policy frameworks—the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008—refract through highly politicized and mediatized bureaucracies of care and control to structure how human service providers care for UC. He suggests institutional pressures to accelerate time to release are often at odds with professional care ethics, and that this tension risks compromising care for UC as well as the sustainability of the human service workforce in mission-driven organizations contracted by ORR.

To register, contact Sophie Kofman at skofman@abfn.org


John Doering-White is an Assistant Professor of Social Work and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina. His research focuses on undocumented immigration and humanitarianism. His ethnographic work has focused on grassroots shelters that assist Central Americans migrating through Mexico. He is interested in how organizations can best assist undocumented communities considering shifting immigration enforcement trends between the United States, Mexico, and Central America. As part of this work, Doering-White served as co-producer on Border South, a feature documentary film that premiered to national and international audiences in June 2019.

Doering-White is also actively conducting research in his hometown of Detroit in partnership with organizations that support immigrant and minority entrepreneurs navigating a gentrifying city. Data collection for this project has taken place in partnership with undergraduate students participating in a summer field school that trains students in qualitative and community-engaged methods.

Doering-White’s research has been funded by the Fulbright Garcia-Robles program, the Wenner Gren Foundation, and the Institute for Field Research. His scholarship appears in Social Service Review, Children and Youth Services Review, the Journal of Social Work Education, the Journal of Community Practice, and the Journal of International Migration and Integration. He has also presented nationally and internationally on various topics, including undocumented migration, unaccompanied minors, language interpretation, and ethnographic approaches.

Doering-White is a graduate of the Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Anthropology at the University of Michigan, where he also earned his MSW. He received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Human Development Social Relations from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.