Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) network of shelters for unaccompanied youth have garnered national attention as the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, and the aftermath of the zero-tolerance policy continues to unfold.
Crittenton just happens to be one the HHS shelters located in Southern California that is a grantee under the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Our youth shelter programming is not new. In fact, it first opened its doors to assist ORR with providing medical, educational, recreational, mental health and housing services for “unaccompanied youth” nearly 12 years ago. The idea of the youth shelters came about as the federal government responded to the Flores Settlement Agreement. This litigation outcome set into motion the national standards of how the federal government needs to treat children in immigration custody, and that children must be held in the “least restrictive environment appropriate to age and special needs”. The “least restrictive environment” component of the Flores Settlement Agreement is the reason why Crittenton a trauma-informed child welfare agency was selected to be a youth shelter by HHS. We’ve served unaccompanied youth during the Bush administration, followed by the Obama administration, and now into the current administration.
Crittenton nor any other youth shelter have any formal say in national policy concerning the immigration outcomes of the unaccompanied youth in our care. However, we will continue to encourage our federal partners to listen to the perspective of child welfare expertise and to always keep the well-being of children as a priority within their decision-making process.
We are a nonprofit and an agency of mental health professionals that deeply cares for the children and youth we serve. Crittenton is proud of all the programming we are known for that includes serving the needs of American foster care youth, transitional age youth, juvenile justice youth, teen mothers and commercially sexually exploited youth (or trafficked youth).
In times of crisis, such as these, we remain true to our child welfare and mental health legacy. We can’t control the circumstances in which all of our youth find themselves in, but we will do everything in our power to help all of our kids, in all of our programs, in their time of need.
We apologize for any late responses during this period as we are handling a high volume of calls and emails and are going through each as time permits. We continue to thank all of our neighbors, volunteers, and new supporters for their concern and interest in our youth shelter program and its overall mission. Thank you for the kindness shown, and for further information about our mission and our programs you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .