“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
– The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus
The Lost Children
Just over a week ago, The Chicago Tribune and Splinter News released stories revealing that the United States government lost track of 1,475 migrant foster children.
According to government officials, the office of Refugee Resettlement started reaching out to 7,635 children with sponsors to conduct welfare checks. Through these checks, they learned that 6,075 children were still with their foster care placements while they await their legal status. So, the question needs to be asked, where are the remaining 1,560 migrant children? Five were deported, 28 ran away, and 52 were living with someone else other than their foster parents. That gives us our grand total of 1,475 migrant foster children that are missing.
Queue the Budget Blame
According to an agency official, The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) did not have a large enough budget to track unaccompanied minors. Two years ago, federal officials rolled back child protection policies for minors, so blaming the budget is like catching only one thief that was in on the heist. This calamity drew sharp criticism from Republican Senator Rob Portman who rightfully attributes blame to not just the Health and Human Services Department, but Department of Homeland Security as well; he has requested that they come up with a better system for tracking and monitoring children within the system.
“These kids, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to be treated properly, not abused or trafficked… This is all about accountability.” – Senator, Rob Portman.
Calamity with A Touch of Catastrophe
I don’t know where to begin to criticize, let alone provide a name, for this herculean failure. The excerpt at the beginning of this article may look familiar, as it should because it happens to be the same words that are on a plaque fastened to the inner wall of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. They are the words that have made America a beacon of hope for people living in countries ravaged by poverty and conflict. If the children in the foster care system that were placed with abusive sponsors were in significant danger, then it is safe to assume that the 1,475 missing children are in similar or worse threat, and in the case of 1,475 children these two agencies, the HHS and the Department of Homeland Security, have failed.
This is a nightmare come true for everybody who has dedicated their careers to foster care and adoption. This story is still new, and as things continue to play out in Washington, I urge adoption and foster care professionals to get ready for changes that may affect their operations.