Scores of Immigrant Children Separated From Parents are at California Facilities
Marchers in L.A. this week protest the Trump administrations hard-line immigration policies. (Kyle Grillot for LAist)
About 100 children removed from their parents at the U.S. Mexico border are now staying in child care facilities in California -- including 16 kids aged eight to 17 in a Fullerton group home run by Crittenton Services for Children and Families.
Martha Jasso, spokeswoman for Crittenton, said children placed in California are staying in facilities and homes licensed by the state to care for children, not repurposed stores and pop-up shelters.
"We just want people to know that what they're seeing on T.V., that would not fly in California," Jasso said.
The children, she said, are "doing ok, despite the circumstances." So far, mental health care has been a focus for the new arrivals.
Jasso spoke to KPCC/LAist late Friday, hours after Mayor Eric Garcetti said in an interview that he was frustrated by the lack of communication from federal officials about what was going on locally.
GARCETTI: "CAN'T EVEN SAY WHO THEIR PARENTS ARE"
"Here in Los Angeles we know of at least 100 young immigrants, some as them as small as babies, who are here in Los Angeles," Garcetti said. "And we hear it from some of the agencies that care for these children that they are being placed in foster homes or even group homes. And we simply don't understand why the federal government won't share more with the American people and with local officials."
Jasso said her agency sees its mission as ensuring the comfort and safety of the children in their care while working on a plan to reunify them with family.
How that will be realized is a concern for Garcetti.
"These kids are so young, they can't even say who their parents are," he said. "How can a one-year-old tell somebody who their mother or father is? We don't know that those records have been well kept and that when parents move, children move, that they are easily reunified."
CONTRACTS TO HOUSE UNACCOMPANIED MINORS
Crittenton is one of several nonprofit agencies in California that has been accepting unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S. Border with Mexico for years.
Federal tax filings show David & Margaret Youth and Family Services, which runs a shelter for children in La Verne and foster family placement agencies Nuevo Amanecer in Los Angeles and International Christian Adoptions in Temecula, have also worked with unaccompanied minors in the past. All are licensed by the State of California to either care for children or place them with foster families.
David & Margaret Youth and Family Services confirmed in a statement to KPCC/LAist that they have unaccompanied minors.
"Like the rest of the country we are troubled by what has occurred at our borders," said CEO Charles Rich. "We do not set public policy and cannot be distracted from the work we do. Our focus is to care for youth. We are committed to providing a safe, nurturing, and comforting environment to all the children we serve."
Emergency shelter space for children removed from their families via the immigration system or child welfare system is hard to find in California, Jasso said. Even before President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" policy for people entering the country illegally went into effect, Jasso said the Fullerton shelter was near capacity.
Whether coming from the child welfare system or immigration system, children removed from their parents are experiencing major trauma, Jasso said. The newer arrivals, who were removed from their families at the border, may be more challenging to place with family members, however, if their parents are in detention.
Relatives in the U.S., too, may be harder to locate if they're concerned about being deported.
Jasso said her agency, like others, is waiting for clarity from the federal government on how to proceed. In the meantime, she said, the focus is on the children.
"We are an organization that truly believes in building resiliency in every youth we serve within all of our programming efforts agency-wide," she said. "And those values and mission won't change anytime soon...even in a crisis situation."
June 23, 9:25 a.m.: This story was updated with a statement from David & Margaret Youth and Family Services.
This article was originally published at 10 p.m. on June 22.
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