July 17, 2018 – Recent allegations about our programs are deeply troubling as they do not reflect our values or the quality of care we strive to provide. We initiated an investigation immediately upon learning of these allegations over the weekend, and we support Senator Dick Durbin’s call for an investigation of our programs from the Office of Inspector General. If any investigation reveals that a staff member placed a child in danger or did not follow protocols, we will immediately remove them from their duties. We have augmented the staff capacity and oversight at our shelters while we await the outcome of any and all investigations, and all shelter staff are receiving additional mandatory training on trauma-informed care by the end of July.
Ensuring the safety and well-being of children is our top priority. Children who arrive alone at our shelters after being forcibly separated from their parents are scared and sad. Our childcare staff, clinicians, and social workers understand their trauma and are dedicated to supporting them during an incredibly difficult time. We have extensive policies, procedures, and standards of care that guide our approach to ensure the safety and well-being of all children in our care. We provide a structure of learning and play at our shelters, children are given age-appropriate chores, and we nurture all children in our care. We are proactive in preventing the spread of communicable illnesses among children in our residential shelters. And it is not our practice to ever use injections for behavior management.
Heartland Alliance is a 130-year-old human rights organization that has been providing shelter to unaccompanied minors for more than 20 years. We stand alongside children seeking safety in the U.S. and fervently believe that families belong together. We believe that people have the right to seek asylum in the United States and that they should not be criminalized for seeking safety here.