HHS watchdog to probe Fort Bliss facility for migrant children

HHS watchdog to probe Fort Bliss facility for migrant children
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The Department of Health and Human Services's (HHS) independent watchdog is launching an investigation of the agency's use of the Fort Bliss, Texas, facility to house unaccompanied migrant children following a whistleblower complaint about conditions at the site.

The HHS Office of Inspector General said it will analyze interviews and on-site observations "regarding case management challenges at Fort Bliss that may have impeded the safe and timely release of children to sponsors."

A report is expected to be issued this year. 

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A large influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border in the spring of 2021 forced the Biden administration to open more than a dozen emergency intake facilities: unlicensed, temporary facilities designed to meet basic standards of care for children on a short-term basis. 

Fort Bliss is the largest, with a capacity to house up to 10,000 children. As of late July, only five emergency intake sites remain open, according to HHS.

According to the Office of Inspector General, in the months since the Fort Bliss facility opened, "several individuals have raised concerns about the quality of case management provided there, and its negative impact on children's safety and well-being."

While unaccompanied children are in government custody, the U.S. is supposed to locate family members or sponsors that can care for them while they resolve their immigration status. Poor case management could result in extended stays in facilities meant to be temporary. 

Multiple whistleblowers have stepped forward in recent days to complain about overcrowding, filthy conditions and inadequate access to mental health services at the facility, after the government allegedly contracted with several companies with no experience caring for children.

One complaint also alleged that HHS told workers to downplay the degree of COVID-19 infection among children at the site.