WASHINGTON — A report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General’s Office detailed how conditions at an emergency intake site for unaccompanied children at the border hindered effective and safe case management and resulted in retaliation against employees who spoke out about the conditions. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is a contracted agency serving children detained at the site, Fort Bliss, where it provides legal assistance and education to children seeking protection. Following the release of the report, KIND President Wendy Young issued the following statement:
“As advocates who regularly meet with children in government custody, we welcome this kind of transparency and agree with the inspector general’s recommendations,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “We appreciate the steps taken to improve conditions at Fort Bliss thus far. It is now vital that HHS ensure that Ft. Bliss meet all relevant requirements for influx care facilities to optimize conditions and services for the vulnerable children placed there.
“The reliance of HHS on emergency intake sites and influx care facilities like Fort Bliss fails to serve the best interests of children seeking safety. KIND continues to press the department to expand the network of smaller shelters where the standard of care is higher. Both HHS and the Department of Homeland Security should expand the “Trusted Adult Relative Program,” which minimizes the traumatic separation of children from caretakers who are not parents or legal guardians. Expanding this program can reduce how long children stay in HHS custody, reducing demands on the shelter system.”
Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990
Meredith MacKenzie de Silva, email@example.com, (202) 412-4270