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Unaccompanied migrant children facing distress, long periods before release at Fort Bliss


FORT BLISS, Texas -- Unaccompanied migrant children have had to wait weeks for updates from their case managers, causing many of the children to face distress, anxiety, and panic attacks under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, according to a report released by the Office of Inspector General.

A substantial increase in unaccompanied children from south of the U.S.-Mexico border was seen in 2021. In response, ORR opened Emergency Intake Sites to provide care for these children.

The report shows that at the ORR EIS opening, operational challenges hindered case management.

ORR cited the rushed opening as the cause of this hindered case management, as ORR faced challenges recruiting experienced case managers and providing them with adequate and timely training.

As a result, case management for the safe and timely release of children was hindered.

Staff also reported potential retaliation and whistleblower chilling.

OIG provided multiple recommendations in their report.

"OIG recommends that-to help ensure that children receive quality case management services that prioritize their safety and well-being, including during an influx-ACF:

(1) develop and implement a plan that supports ORR and its contractors in securing qualified case managers during an influx to help ensure children's safe and timely release to sponsors;

(2) provide case managers with timely and comprehensive training and support to help ensure children's safe and timely release to sponsors;

(3) create an emergency policy development protocol that provides for adequate input from staff with expertise in child welfare when ORR develops field guidance during an influx;

(4) ensure that ORR addresses challenges regarding usability and search capabilities within its case management system, the UC Portal; and

(5) ensure that ORR's employees and employees of ORR's contractors and recipients are informed about Federal whistleblower protections. ACF concurred with our recommendations."

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Kerry Mannix


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