HHS Bedspace Shortage for Unaccompanied Children: A Self-Made Crisis

June 5, 2018


Washington, DC — Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is greatly concerned that the Trump Administration’s policy of family separation is imposing even more harm on the children who they are rendering “unaccompanied” by holding them for long periods of time in CBP’s jail-like facilities in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.

“The Administration is creating a completely unnecessary and damaging crisis as a result of its harsh new policy of taking children away from parents at the U.S. border,” said KIND President Wendy Young.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is required by law to transfer unaccompanied children it apprehends to the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours; CBP’s facilities are inappropriate to hold children for any length of time as they are jail-like, have no beds, are often very cold, and run by officers who have little to no child welfare experience.

Another concern is the particularly young age of the children. NBC News has reported almost half of the 300 children who have spent more than 72 hours in CBP custody are younger than 12 years old. Holding young children in these facilities violates the most basic of child welfare practices, including keeping children in restrictive settings made for adults and without child protection experts to ensure the proper and safe treatment of these children.

Contributing to this self-made crisis are the numerous new policies and procedures that are slowing down the release of children from custody. These policies include targeting potential sponsors and people living in the potential sponsor’s household for arrest for immigration issues.

“HHS is being squeezed at both ends,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “Due to numerous new policies by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, HHS is suddenly receiving greatly increased numbers of unaccompanied children while at the same time more barriers are being imposed on the release of these children in a timely manner. It’s a no-win situation.”

Unaccompanied children need and deserve basic protection as children first and foremost, and treatment that recognizes their unique vulnerability. They must also have meaningful access to due process and counsel to make their claim to stay safely in the U.S., without which we risk sending them back to grave harm and even death.


Media Contact: Megan McKenna, mmckenna@supportkind.org, 202-631-9990