Governor Wolf, Senator Casey Demand Answers on Unaccompanied Migrant Children Housed in Pennsylvania

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Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today joined U.S. Senator Bob Casey in a joint letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar requesting answers to questions regarding the number of migrant children separated from their families at the southern border who are now housed in Pennsylvania.

The questions were first posed at a recent meeting between Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller and the Acting Regional Administrator for the Administration for Children and Families. The meeting was an effort to seek information on how the Trump administration’s actions separating children from their families impacts Pennsylvania.

“Our main priority as statewide officials is ensuring the safety and well-being of all Pennsylvanians, including those residing in our great commonwealth even for a short period of time,” according to the letter. “We are very concerned about vulnerable children, for whom the trauma of being separated from their families will have a short and long-term adverse impact on their mental health and well-being. Accordingly, we reiterate our strong opposition to the practice of detaining families who seek asylum in the United States, especially the practice of separating children from their parents.”

Pennsylvania has statutory oversight of Child Residential and Day Treatment Facilities and oversees the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors’ Program (URMP), which is administered through contracts at the local level and provides services for youth, including custodial foster care and group home placement, case management services, supervised semi-independent living, medical, and cash assistance.

Gov. Wolf and Sen. Casey asked specific questions in the letter, including:

  • How many unaccompanied immigrant minors are currently residing in Pennsylvania?
  • Where are these children currently residing?
  • In addition, please provide a list of all Office of Refugee Resettlement contracted facilities with unaccompanied children (UACs) in Pennsylvania, as well as a description of the vetting and oversight conducted by your department over these facilities.
  • Does the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have plans, both short and long-term, for reuniting these unaccompanied children with their families? If so, what is the specific timeline for reunification?
  • Does HHS know precisely where the parents or guardians of unaccompanied children are currently located?
  • Are there details available for Pennsylvania officials with regard to how the safety and well-being of these children will be protected in the interim?

The letter concludes by advising the administration that both Gov. Wolf and Sen. Casey “remain very concerned that the federal government’s recent actions separating children from their parents will cause irreparable harm in the lives of a very vulnerable population.”

You may read the letter below, view it as a PDF or see it on Scribd.

Governor Wolf and U.S. Senator Casey joint letter to U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Azar

July 3, 2018
Mr. Alex Azar, Secretary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
330 C St. SW
Washington, DC 20416

Dear Secretary Azar:

We write to you today seeking information on how the administration’s actions of separating children from their families impact Pennsylvania. Our main priority as statewide officials is ensuring the safety and well-being of all Pennsylvanians, including those residing in our great Commonwealth even for a short period of time. We are very concerned about vulnerable children, for whom the trauma of being separated from their families will have a short and long-term adverse impact on their mental health and well-being. Accordingly, we reiterate our strong opposition to the practice of detaining families who seek asylum in the United States, especially the practice of separating children from their parents.

Like other states, Pennsylvania has a statutory responsibility for the oversight of Child Residential and Day Treatment Facilities. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) takes great pride in its commitment to serving children through a strong licensing program, which is the foundation for ensuring the health, safety, and general well-being of the children who reside in these facilities. In addition, DHS’ Unaccompanied Refugee Minors’ Program (URMP), which is administered through contracts at the local level, provides services for youth, including custodial foster care and group home placement, case management services, supervised semi-independent living, and medical and cash assistance.

Knowing that thousands of children have been separated from their parents by the Administration in just the last few months, we would like to ensure that any unaccompanied minor residing in Pennsylvania is receiving the care required under state law. To that end, we write to reiterate several questions posed by Pennsylvania’s DHS to the Acting Regional Administrator for the Administration for Children and Families on June 26, 2018. Specifically, we seek detailed responses to the following questions:

  • How many unaccompanied immigrant minors are currently residing in Pennsylvania?
  • Where are these children currently residing?
  • In addition, please provide a list of all Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) contracted facilities with UACs in Pennsylvania, as well as a description of the vetting and oversight conducted by your department over these facilities.
  • Does the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have plans, both short and long-term, for reuniting these unaccompanied children with their families? If so, what is the specific timeline for reunification?
  • Does HHS know precisely where the parents or guardians of unaccompanied children are currently located?
  • Are there details available for Pennsylvania officials with regard to how the safety and well-being of these children will be protected in the interim?

We remain very concerned that the federal government’s recent actions of separating children from their parents will cause irreparable harm in the lives of a very vulnerable population. We ask that you provide information about the scope of this issue in Pennsylvania so that we can carry out our responsibilities as elected officials. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

TOM WOLF, Governor

ROBERT P. CASEY, JR, United States Senator

7.03.2018 – Gov. Wolf and Sen. Casey Letter to Sec. Azar by Governor Tom Wolf on Scribd

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