DENVER - Local Human Services officials say they expect to learn by October 1 whether Denver will be awarded a substantial grant to provide temporary shelter, care and support for upward of 1800 unaccompanied children who are among thousands entering the United States without documents at its southern border.
“We are faced with a humanitarian crisis,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “This city has never shied away from doing what’s right, and this is the right thing to do.”
According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement website, an estimated 60,000 unaccompanied alien children were referred to U.S. authorities in 2014. In 2013, that number was 24,668. 37 percent of them were from Guatemala, 30 percent from Honduras, 26 percent from El Salvador, 3 percent from Mexico, 2 percent from Ecuador and 3 percent from other countries.
According to the ORR website, the reasons they come to the U.S. include, but are not limited to the following:
To escape violence, abuse or persecution in their home countries
To find family members already residing in the United States
To seek work to support themselves; their family, or their own children
Were brought into the United States by human trafficking rings
Mayor Hancock said Denver is a welcoming, compassionate city, “and we will not turn a blind eye to children in need – no matter where they come from – if called upon to help.”
If Denver is awarded the grant, the children, 60 at a time, would initially be housed at the Denver Family Crisis Center near West 10th Avenue and Federal Boulevard.
Denver Human Services has partnered with Denver Health and with Lutheran Family Services in the grant application.
Lutheran Family Services Communications Manager Wendy Coffman told 7NEWS that the children would likely stay at the crisis center for 30 - 35 days.
“Then Lutheran Family Services steps in on a case by case basis,” she said. “LFS will primarily serve these children through its established foster care programs by locating, visiting and certifying the homes and families identified as kin and then safely reunifying the children with these families in communities throughout Colorado and neighboring states.”
The kin that Coffman alludes to are not parents or guardians but are other relatives.
“These children have all endured dangerous journeys, fleeing horrific violence and persecution to seek refuge in the United States,” Jim Barclay, LFS Presidents and CEO said in a news release. “LFS has been dedicated to helping vulnerable children and families since 1948 and feel that we not only have the needed expertise and experience but that our mission calls us to serve during this humanitarian crisis, by helping keep these children safe until they can be reunited with their families.
The Family Crisis Center, where the children would initially be sheltered, has 60 beds. Denver Human Services Director of Communications Ana Mostaccero told 7NEWS that the center includes a Colorado Department of Education-approved facility with classrooms.
How quickly the children might transition into public schools remains to be seen, as does the impact on local school districts.
Which districts might be impacted would likely depend on where the foster families live.