In the Senate Appropriations Report to the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations, the Committee directs HHS to provide monthly data and weekly updates on the status of children in HHS custody. The directive is attached to the $1.3 billion appropriated to the Unaccompanied Alien children line item. In the Committee comments they note the trauma and hardship being caused to children because of recent policies.

“Accordingly, the Committee directs the Department to provide, at a minimum, monthly briefings…on the status of balances and current expenditure rates, current trends in the UAC program, any planned or implemented policy changes that impact the UAC program, and updated cost estimates…the Department shall notify the Committees…prior to making any administrative changes to the UAC program including, but not limited to, policies potentially impacting the number of children referred to HHS; shelter operations, including the placement of children with sponsors; and any post-release services.”

Appropriators are also directing HHS to provide weekly updates on data and information to both the Congress and the public including on websites:

“…the Committee directs HHS to include in its existing weekly updates additional information, including, for both all UACs and the children who were apprehended as part of a family unit, the number of children referred to HHS, the number currently in their care, the age and gender distribution of children, the average length of stay, the number of preteen children in both shelter beds and ORR-run foster care programs, the number of children released to sponsors, and the category of sponsor. The weekly updates should also include historical monthly totals for all information provided, updated as it becomes available. The Committee directs HHS to make this monthly information available publicly on its website, and to provide weekly updates on its website of the number of children who have been reunited with separated family members.”

Finally, there is this directive:

“…the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 and the Flores agreement require that all UACs should be transferred from DHS to HHS within 72 hours and promptly placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child. The Committee directs HHS to notify the Committee immediately should children remain in DHS custody longer than 72 hours before being transferred to HHS.”

Under past circumstances and administrations, such language within an appropriations committee report would likely create a response by HHS. Technically, this is an appropriation that has not been approved by the full Senate or Congress. So, what will the Administration response be?

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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