DeLauro, Castro Release GAO Report Revealing ORR Risks Awarding Grants to Facilities that Compromise the Safety and Well-Being of Children
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, and Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, today released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report requested in March 2019 to examine the care and custody of unaccompanied children in Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee and Resettlement (ORR) shelters.
“Protecting vulnerable children in United States’ custody is a moral obligation, and HHS has the responsibility to ensure facilities receiving federal tax dollars have the capacity to safely serve the number of children specified in their grant agreements,” said DeLauro and Castro. “This report outlines much of what we predicted and feared: federal taxpayer dollars are at risk of being granted to facilities that compromise the safety and well-being of children. We have seen the conditions many children face in these facilities and are committed to ensuring they are treated with the utmost care and compassion.”
The GAO report, “UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN: Actions Needed to Improve Grant Application Reviews and Oversight of Care Facilities,” points out:
- a troubling lack of communication with the State licensing agencies that regularly monitor these facilities, which means ORR is awarding grants without factoring in facility issues or provider performance issues that may have been identified by the State.
- that ORR is risking Federal taxpayer dollars with its current grant award process, awarding grants that, in some cases, will never be licensed or will be at risk of losing their licenses due to facility issues that compromise the safety and well-being of children.
- that ORR is not always in compliance with existing ORR monitoring policies and procedures.
Many of the recommendations proposed by GAO will improve efficiency, better protect the safety and security of children, and help to protect taxpayer dollars. The report identified several vulnerabilities that can be mitigated with better communication, documentation management, and cooperation with State agencies and grantees.
“Thank you to GAO for doing this important work and thank you to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) for accepting all of the recommendations made by GAO,” the Members continued. “The House Appropriations Committee and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are committed to ensuring ACF implements these critical changes to protect children and families.”