Thousands of asylum-seeking children are trapped in a confusing network of some 200 facilities spanning two dozen states and including five shelters with more than 1,000 children packed inside where staff and contractors struggle to keep children safe and healthy while also cutting corners and dodging reports of abuse, reports the Associated Press. Confidential data shows the number of migrant children in government custody more than doubled in the past two months. Attorneys, advocates and mental health experts say that while some shelters are safe and provide adequate care, others are endangering children’s health and safety. A few of the current practices are the same as those that President Joe Biden and others criticized under the Trump administration, including not vetting some caregivers with full FBI fingerprint background checks.
The government declined to say whether there are any legally enforceable standards for caring for children housed at the emergency sites or how they are being monitored. The Biden administration has allowed very limited access to news media once children are brought into facilities, citing the coronavirus pandemic and privacy restrictions. Of particular concern to advocates are mass shelters, with hundreds of beds apiece. Half of all migrant children detained in the U.S. are sleeping in shelters with more than 1,000 other children, with more than 17,650 children in facilities with 100 or more children. Some of the facilities holding children are run by contractors already facing lawsuits claiming that children were physically and sexually abused in their shelters under the Trump administration.