I’m proud to have contributed reporting to this major joint New York Magazine/Marshall Project investigation into life as an undocumented immigrant in New York City.

The fear of losing their children can be paralyzing. Groups are advising parents on what to do if they are separated from their children.

As grimly imperative as a will, this 22-page child-care safety plan lays out the wishes of parents at risk of “administrative separation.” Drafted by a coalition of California advocates, this and documents like it have been circulating among immigrants’-rights groups nationwide.

By “Incapacitated,” I mean if, while I have any child or children under the age of 18, I am:

(1) detained by law enforcement; 

(2) incarcerated; 

(3) deported or removed.

Perhaps the main purpose of the document is to keep children out of foster care, wherein parental rights are often severed and kids run a higher risk of eventual homelessness and incarceration. Parents who fail to plan in advance might be cut out of custody proceedings; ICE is supposed to involve them but isn’t required to.

If I am Incapacitated, I choose the following person (and alternates) to be the Caregiver for my children …

Parents are advised to choose at least one person who is “stable,” i.e., a documented person not terminally ill or involved in criminal activity or planning to leave the area. This isn’t always easy. Once, when attorney Miriam Stombler, who helped draft the document, was presenting the care plan to an ESL class, a mother raised her hand to say she didn’t know anyone at all in the U.S. “Two women in the class said, ‘Put me down,’ ” recalls Stombler. “And they meant it.”

For your Designated Caregiver, box 36: Child’s Favorite Things.

“If your parent gets picked up by ICE, it lets the person who picks you up from school that day know that chocolate is your favorite ice cream, or your best friend is Amelia, or this is your comfort stuffed animal,” says Stombler. “The idea was, How do we ease the discomfort for kids when their parents are whisked away?”

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