International Rescue Committee (Boise), Ada County Courts, Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program
Partnering for Permanency: Guardianship for Refugee Minors in Boise
The unique partnership between the International Rescue Committee and the Ada County Magistrate Court facilitates the process of establishing guardianship of refugee minors for caregivers in Boise, Idaho. Currently, caregivers are able to apply for guardianship of refugee minors due to successful cross-service trainings, involvement of the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program, and the adaptation of guardianship policies and procedures for refugee families. In 2007, the International Rescue Committee had a volunteer working with them, who happened to also work with the Attorney General's office. The volunteer developed an interest in guardianship issues related to refugee minors who were being cared for by relatives or other caregivers who were not the minors' biological parents. The volunteer used his contacts within the Attorney General's Office, as well as his understanding of refugee resettlement, to research this issue and to develop creative solutions to barriers that existed for caregivers wishing to establish guardianship of refugee minors.
A cross-service training was first held in 2008, which was organized by the Assistant Attorney General, Judge Christopher Bieter, and Leslye Boban of the International Rescue Committee. Approximately 50 attorneys and paralegals were present at the training, in which Judge Christopher Bieter provided information on the Idaho statues related to guardianship and Leslye Boban provided basic information on refugee resettlement. Since then, other cross-service trainings have been held and continue on an as needed basis. Through the cross-service trainings and dialogue around this topic, the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program became involved. Many of the lawyers from this program are ready and willing to work on these cases pro bono. Due to the flexibility of Judge Bieter and his colleagues, guardianship policies and procedures are adapted on a case by case basis for refugee families. For example, in a typical guardianship proceeding, the biological parents must be notified of the caregiver's request to establish guardianship. Usually this is done through placing an announcement in the local newspaper. In the case of refugee families, where parents may be dead, missing, or overseas in a refugee camp, placing an announcement in the local paper is futile. Therefore, this is not required; however, in collaboration with other organizations, family tracing is done to the extent possible. In addition, the court's general intake form has been adapted for refugee families.
The court's general intake form for guardianship cases has been adapted for refugee families.
Families in which caregivers need to establish guardianship of refugee minors.
This collaboration does not have unique funding.
The most time put into the project was from Ralph Blount, IRC volunteer and Attorney with the Attorney General's office. He made the initial contacts with Judge Bieter and assigned clerks to do most of the research on Idaho Statutes regarding guardianship. Leslye Boban, from the IRC, put in approximately 4 hours time in initial meetings, paralegal training, and training for attorneys and paralegals. Judge Bieter put in 3 - 4 hours of his time.
No formal evaluation of the training was done but anecdotal feedback was very positive and the will and level of collaboration needed to move this project forward is strong. The first refugee case to establish guardianship is currently in progress (October 2008). The adapted policies and procedures will be evaluated as this case continues as well as in the future as other cases go forward.
International Rescue Committee (Boise)
(208) 344-1792, ext. 11
Judge Christopher Bieter
Ada County Courts
This collaborative relationship began in 2008.