Local Government and Non-Governmental Assistance Resources
Non-profit or private organizations or individuals may be able to provide important services to wrongful detainees, former wrongful detainees, and/or families of detainees and former detainees. As a starting point for building your networks and identifying available resources, we are providing descriptions of possible support options below. If you feel you need any of the services listed below, please speak with your Family Engagement Team and we can provide you a list of organizations or private intermediaries outside the federal government that have offered particular resources to families, usually on a pro bono basis, in the past.
Financial Advice and Support
- Securing potential employer benefits (income, health insurance, advance pay, etc.): Contact your loved one’s employer to determine what financial support they may be willing to offer in light of the wrongful detention. This may include continued income, continued benefits (health insurance), or other benefits. If you are employed, contact your employer to see if you can get advance pay, paid time off, or other benefits during this time.
- Managing your loved one’s and your finances: Certified financial planners, accountants, and tax professionals may be able to offer insight on how best to manage your and your loved one’s finances and expenses, including taxes, over the term of the detention. Some of these professionals offer pro bono or reduced fee services to families of wrongful detainees or people with limited incomes. Professional societies of these organizations, and some individuals and organizations that work with families of wrongful detainees keep lists of these professionals.
- Finding state and local government financial support programs: Many counties throughout the United States have a city/county/town Health and Human Services office (the name may vary) or some other local government entity that is responsible for administering financial support programs, such as food stamps, housing assistance, utility assistance, and other financial support. If you, or your recently returned loved one, are struggling with unexpected costs and/or income losses, you may consider contacting your local community assistance office.
- Finding non-profit community organization support programs: Similarly, many communities across the United States have secular or religious non-profit organizations that offer assistance with housing and utility expenses, food banks, clothing banks, or miscellaneous financial needs.
- Obtaining financial support in crisis from financial institutions: Some financial institutions have programs to support people in financial need or crisis. You may be able to contact your loved one’s banks and/or credit card companies to explore options for pausing payments and/or interest, if possible, while your loved one is wrongfully detained. You may wish to explore this option with any other organization to whom your loved one had been making payments. See our Actions to Consider section for more ideas on organizations that this may include.
- Safeguarding your loved one from identity theft: see the resources to protect against identity theft on our Legal and Financial Considerations page. This can safeguard your loved one’s accounts to prevent against further financial loss.
- Raising funds to support your loved one and your families advocacy efforts: GoFundMe and/or other fundraising platforms can be helpful in raising money for legal fees, travel costs, supplies for your loved one during detention, or even money to help your loved one rebuild their life back home following their release. Be mindful of how best to pace your fundraising efforts over time so as not to exhaust your donors.
- Obtaining counseling and social work support through insurance: If you have health insurance, you may have access to your healthcare provider’s network of counselors, social workers, and other mental health professionals. Ask your healthcare provider for a list of mental health professionals with experience working with trauma, anxiety, depression, and/or any other issue that is relevant to you.
- Locating support through local government organizations: Local government community organizations may also administer public mental health services, and may be able to help you access free or reduced fee counseling services through area providers.
- Obtaining support through teaching hospitals and clinics: University clinics in your area may offer free/reduced fee mental health services through counseling/social work students who are supervised by licensed professionals.
- Finding support through religious organizations: Local religious organizations may offer counseling services either through religious medical or social work organizations or congregations. Whether in a formal counseling setting or not, clergy/members of your religious congregation may be able to offer counseling, peer counseling, community and/or emotional support.
- Obtaining support for children through schools: One resource specific to children may be any school counselors at your children’s schools.
- Locating support through hostage or wrongful detention support groups: While it may be difficult to find someone who can truly understand having a loved one wrongfully detained overseas, you may wish to look into support groups for families with incarcerated loved ones.
- Obtaining counseling services from employers: As one of the benefits for employees and their families in a crisis situation, some companies offer confidential counseling services, often at no cost for a limited period of time.
Media Strategy and Support
- Finding support for communicating with the media: Public relations firms, national and international non-governmental organizations, and third-party interlocutors may be able to help you in your efforts to effectively engage the media on your loved one, often on a pro bono basis. Whether someone seeks you out or you reach out to them, be sure to verify upfront whether they can help you on a pro bono basis. Since pro bono services are available, you can compare and determine whether or not a paid service would be valuable to your family.
- Developing a media strategy and press statements: National and international non-governmental organizations, public relations firms, and third party interlocutors with experience with these types of cases may be able to offer help ranging from working with you to create press statements, to planning short and long-term media strategies both in the United States and overseas. Some organizations who support families of wrongful detainees, or your family engagement team, may be able to refer you to professionals that families have worked with in the past.
- Finding legal support for media engagement: Some attorneys may be able to help you evaluate legal concerns with media engagement or public appearances, or review contracts if you do decide to hire someone. Talk to your lawyers about how they may be able to assist.
Congressional Advocacy Support
- Identifying and communicating with Members of Congress: If you are not comfortable reaching out to your member of Congress, some NGOs and third-party interlocutors have experience with advising families about interacting with Congress. They can help you with everything from identifying relevant Congress members, to explaining how to formally address them in writing and in person. Some family member of past or current wrongful detainees may also be willing to share their experiences with building their congressional networks.
- Securing meetings with senators and representatives: As mentioned on the Working with Congress page, most Members of Congress have both local and Washington, DC officers. If you have trouble getting a meeting or receiving responses from your member’s office, consider reaching out to NGOs or third party interlocutors for assistance. If your loved one has signed a Privacy Act Waiver allowing the State Department to discuss their case with Congress, you may always request that your representatives seek a briefing from SPEHA and the HAU; this can help underscore the gravity of the detention. If it is not possible to have your loved one sign a PAW while in detention, speak with your Family Engagement Team about information-sharing options.
- Advocating for resolutions or legislation to support your loved one: Some families have been successful in getting Congressional resolutions passed related to their loved ones. This effort is often supported by NGOs who support hostages and wrongful detainees, or third party intermediaries.
Legal Advice and Support
Locating pro bono legal support in the United States:
- Individual state bar associations maintain information on pro bono legal resources.
- Law schools in your area may offer free/reduced fee legal services through faculty supervised clinical programs. Legal aid organizations located throughout the United States offer pro bono and reduced fee legal assistance to residents in their areas.
- Law firms sometimes have in-house programs for pro bono legal work.
Locating legal support overseas:
- All U.S. embassies and consulates overseas maintain a list of local attorneys, and most have this list available on their website. The list typically includes attorneys who speak English and/or have represented U.S. nationals previously.
- International human rights organizations may have lists of lawyers who work on wrongful detention cases. Some of these lawyers have argued cases before the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention or the European Court of Human Rights.
Non-profit Hostage Support Organizations
Below is a non-exhaustive list of organizations that work on hostage and wrongful detainee issues. While you can reach out to these organizations directly, your family engagement team will be able to facilitate any communication.
- Mission statement: Hostage U.S. ensures American hostages, wrongful detainees, and their families get the support and guidance they need to survive the challenge of a kidnapping.
James W. Foley Legacy Foundation
- Mission statement: To advocate for the freedom of all Americans held hostage abroad and promote the safety of journalists worldwide.
Richardson Center for Global Engagement
- Mission statement: The Richardson Center for Global Engagement promotes global peace and dialogue by identifying and working on areas of opportunity for engagement and citizen diplomacy with countries and communities not usually open to more formal diplomatic channels.
- Mission statement: Founded on a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering, the Carter Center seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health.
Additional U.S. Government Resources
Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Travel Advisories and country information – This website allows you to search for travel information on a specific country