Citing a backlog of unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors in need of care, the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) announced this month that it has awarded five sole-source contracts for long-term foster care.
The year-and-a-half long contracts totaling $9.1 million, which will largely fund group care with some use of foster family homes, were made to:
- Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, with operations in California, Pennsylvania and Virginia
- Bethany Christian Services, California and Michigan
- New Life Foster Family Agency, California
- Building Bridges Foster Family Agency, California
- Board of Child Care, Kentucky and Michigan
When unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous countries arrive at the border, often after a perilous journey through Mexico, the Department of Homeland Security is required to place them in the custody of ORR. The majority of the children arrive from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, although the system has seen an influx of Afghan youth since the U.S. withdrawal.
The agency then places children with contracted shelters around the country. While unaccompanied minors from Mexico are often quickly returned across the border, minors from Central America are infrequently returned home. More often, they are placed with family members in the U.S. and slated for a court date to determine a claim of asylum.
The shelter system is tasked with providing care for them as potential sponsors inside the United States — a parent or caregiver already here, relatives or family friends — is identified and approved.
The need to quickly award new contracts arises, according to Federal Register notice from ORR, from a “pending list with over 300 minors on it” who need long-term placements “due to the unanticipated influx of unaccompanied children at the southwestern border in 2021 and the unforeseen arrival of Unaccompanied Afghan Minors over the past year.”
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