06.19.20

Senator Murray: Watchdog Reveals “Troubling” Gaps in Safety Protocols at Federal Facilities Caring for Unaccompanied Minors

Senator Murray: “ The reports from the HHS inspector general lay bare the troubling gaps in safety and reporting protocols that are far too often leaving children under federal care in harm’s way.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement in response to two new reports released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) revealing ways in which the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is failing to take necessary steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children in its care. The reports stem from a request Senator Murray and Democrats made in 2018 that the HHS OIG investigate the Health Department’s treatment of children in its care after the Trump Administration’s inhumane family separation policy needlessly separated children from their parents.

 

“The reports from the HHS inspector general lay bare the troubling gaps in safety and reporting protocols that are far too often leaving children under federal care in harm’s way. These federal facilities are supposed to provide a safe environment for children, but these reports show that the Trump Administration is clearly not living up to that responsibility. I urge the Trump Administration to address these problems and implement the IG’s recommendations without delay. Every day that they refuse to act, means more children are left at risk,” said Senator Murray.

In
one report, the HHS OIG analyzed ORR’s system for reporting serious incidents—including those of a sexual nature—and determined its system does not effectively prevent, detect, and report incidents. Specifically, the reporting system does not allow ORR to track whether facilities responded effectively to incidents, including by reporting the incident to local law enforcement. The report also noted that during the seven-month review period, ORR reported 48 incidents of a sexual nature of an adult against a minor.

The report stated, “ORR’s incident reporting system lacks designated fields to capture information that ORR can use to oversee facilities and to protect the minors in ORR care. … In addition, the system does not effectively capture information in a way that allows for efficient identification of issues that require immediate attention and analysis to detect concerning trends.”


In
the second report, the HHS OIG analyzed ORR’s safety checklist for facilities and determined that 39 of the 40 facilities analyzed do not include required security measures on their checklists. Moreover, ORR does not provide guidance or routine oversight on facilities’ use of inspection checklists to ensure required physical security measures are present and working in their facilities.

 

Ultimately, the report warned that, “If facilities do not regularly check that their security measures are functioning, children potentially could be exposed to safety risks.”

 

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