Posts Tagged ‘Office of Refugee Resettlement’
Posted by Christopher Coen on October 3, 2011
The case involving repeated sexual assaults of an 8-year-old refugee boy at a Catholic Charities Galveston-Houston shelter – and the agency’s subsequent cover-up of the case – continues to unfold. The agency won’t answer further questions on the cover-up, including whether the 8-year-old was separated from the two older boys after the assault, how many other children reported witnessing the abuse, what kind of treatment was provided for them and when. Its also seems that government oversight agencies have only been able to slowly dredge out details of the case from Catholic Charities, and that the faith-based agency continues to withhold many key details. It’s also now clear that a Texas state oversight agency did not have a mere “technical glitch” causing closure of the case without investigation, but had a series of failures – putting children at great ongoing risk. Another article in the Houston Chronicle reveals more details of the case.
…In the hours and days after a staff member interrupted the July 1 assault in the upstairs room, the senior management of the Catholic Charities’ program failed to get the boy medical treatment, doctored incident reports and tried to minimize what had occurred in order to “protect the program,” according to a federal report.
But it was not just the boy’s caretakers who stumbled, state and local law enforcement records show. A worker for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services intake system for reports of potential abuse and neglect also made a mistake, accidentally delaying an outside investigation into what happened for nearly two weeks.
After the federal government brought that error to the state’s attention, the case was referred to the wrong agency, leaving it in limbo until it landed with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in August.
In the end, children’s advocates say there is blame to go around, calling for accountability for the shelter program management, who are now part of a criminal investigation. They also called for a review of the state’s intake system to ensure that technical problems with law enforcement notification are quickly fixed.
“Certainly some fault has to go to St. Michael’s for what happened, but if … this reporting went awry and was misdirected in some sort of way, just imagine the hurt that might have been caused to a number of these kids by something not happening soon enough,” said Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of the Houston-based nonprofit Children at Risk.
“When it comes to kids, we need to take immediate action.”…
…The shelter management did not call the sheriff’s office, but they did call the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Statewide Intake Division roughly six hours after the incident, at 6:34 p.m……any report to that state hotline reporting potential abuse or neglect should have triggered a chain of events, including notification of the licensing division for DFPS and a fax or email notification to local law enforcement, said Patrick Crimmins, a DFPS spokesman.
But the worker at the state intake center was confused and couldn’t immediately find a state license for St. Michael’s, Crimmins said. The intake report was “mistakenly closed” without notifying the licensing division or law enforcement about any incident at St. Michael’s, he said…
…On July 13, ORR called the state to check on the status of its investigation, but state licensing officials still had no idea what happened at the shelter.
They re-opened the initial July 1 report and sent out a state monitor to investigate within 72 hours. But the automatic notification system again failed, this time referring the report to the wrong agency, the Houston Police Department. The shelter sits near the city-county line but is within the jurisdiction of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office…
…By mid-August, ORR was suspicious enough about what happened at the shelter that day to send a team of monitors to Houston. They issued a scathing report that documented a reporting delay, failure to seek medical care and the doctoring of incident reports, notifying Catholic Charities on Sept. 8 that they would remove all children from their care, at least temporarily…
…Catholic Charities still refuses to answer several key questions about the incident, including whether the 8-year-old was separated from the two older boys after the assault, how many other children reported witnessing the abuse and what kind of treatment was provided for them and when… Read more here
Catholic Charities Galveston-Houston is the agency which was the subject of complaints from gay Iraqi refugees in 2010, and allegations that one of its workers sexually assaulted an 11-year-old refugee boy in 2007.
Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, child protective services, faith-based, Houston, ORR, police, sexual abuse | Tagged: catholic charities, Department of Family and Protective Services, DFPS, houston, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, police, protective services, refugees, resettlement, sexual abuse, sexual assault, St. Michael's | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on September 27, 2011
An incident at a Catholic Charities shelter in Houston that media outlets previously reported as “sexual activity” between three children is now being reported as a sexual assault. An investigation by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) found that Catholic Charities did not report the July 1 sexual assault of a boy until four days later, nor did they seek medical treatment for the child. Catholic Charities management also did a cover-up, including doctoring of first reports. An article at UPI reports on the ORR investigation:
HOUSTON, Sept. 26 (UPI) — Federal officials were removing children and teens from three Houston shelters after learning the sexual assault of a child at one facility was covered up.
As of Friday, only five of 72 children and teens, mostly refugees, remained in the three Catholic Charities shelters, the Houston Chronicle reported.
An investigation by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement found that Catholic Charities did not report the July 1 sexual assault of a young boy at a St. Michael’s shelter until July 5 and also failed to get the boy medical attention until the latter date.
“CCGH staff had knowledge that a [child] had been anally penetrated as the result of a sexual assault … and did not seek medical treatment,” a report by the office states. “Program staff should have observed that a sexual assault of a child is grounds for immediate medical attention.”
Federal investigators conducted an unannounced visit to the site of the sexual assault in August and found that initial reports of the attack had been doctored.
“The ORR monitors found significant concerns, including the fact that management had full knowledge of the extent of the assault and submitted erroneous … reports to this office, which deliberately misled ORR,” the agency’s director wrote in a Sept. 8 letter to the president of Catholic Charities… Read more here
An article in the Houston Chronicle reports that Catholic Charities management also pressured staffers to withhold details from investigators.
Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, child protective services, children, faith-based, health, Houston, medical care, ORR, sexual abuse | Tagged: catholic charities, chilren, cover-up, doctored documents, houston, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, refugees, sexual abuse, sexual assault | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on September 16, 2011
The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement will temporarily remove all the immigrant and refugee children from St. Michael’s Home for Children operated by Catholic Charities in Houston due to an investigation into “sexual activity” involving three children at one of the organization’s shelters. The organization allegedly assigned staff members in charge of supervising children with other assignments, which left the children to their own devices. An article in the Houston Chronicle has the story:
Federal authorities plan to temporarily remove all of the immigrant and refugee children from St. Michael’s Home for Children operated by Catholic Charities in Houston amid an investigation into “sexual activity” involving three children in one of the organization’s shelters, officials said.
The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, which places children and teenagers caught crossing the border without family members into temporary care, so far has removed 22 of the 46 children housed at the three shelters in Houston and plans to continue removing the rest, officials with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said Friday.
Kenneth Wolfe, an ORR spokesman, said the agency made the decision to temporarily remove the children based on its own monitoring and a state investigation…
…Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said the state conducted an investigation after being notified of the incident on July 13. The state investigator documented deficiencies at the facility, including faulting the administrator for assigning staff members in charge of supervising children with other assignments, which left the children alone “where they acted out inappropriately.”…
…U.S. immigration officials placed 6,074 immigrant and refugee children in the care of ORR in 2009, the most recent data available. More than half of those – some 3,200 – were detained in Texas, the statistics show… Read more here
Posted in Catholic, child protective services, children, faith-based, Houston, ORR, public/private partnership | Tagged: catholic charities, chilren, houston, immigrant, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, refugees, resettlement, St. Michael's Home for Children, Texas | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on July 26, 2011
Larry Gilbert, the Mayor of Lewiston, Maine spoke about refugee resettlement at a Senate hearing on immigration reform today. He claimed, incorrectly, that federal refugee assistance cannot be redirected when refugees migrate to new locations (secondary migration). In fact it is transferable. Further, he claimed that the assistance is inadequate, apparently unaware that the State Department just last year doubled initial resettlement assistance to $1800 per refugee. An article in the Morning Sentinel has more:
WASHINGTON – Lewiston’s experience with an influx of Somali immigrants shows the economic energy they can bring, but also the need for the federal government to do more to help the new residents settle into their new life, says Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert.
Gilbert testified Tuesday at a Senate hearing on immigration reform, a session that mostly focused on the system for attracting and retaining high-skill foreign workers in fields such as computer sciences and engineering.
But Gilbert was one of three mayors from around the country invited to address the broader topic of the economic impact of legal immigrants on local communities…
…more support, some of it from the federal government, is needed to help the immigrants living in Lewiston in areas such as workforce training and learning English, Gilbert said.
Aid from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement is often available to help immigrants adjust to their new lives. However, the assistance is good for just eight months and does not follow an immigrant to a new city. If an immigrant starts receiving the assistance in, say, Atlanta, and then leaves that city after several months to live in Lewiston, the aid is cut off, Gilbert said.
This makes it harder for immigrants to find jobs and creates more of a hardship on the secondary migration city, Gilbert said.
The “inadequate federal funding associated with a refugee resettlement program simply does not meet the many needs of our refugee residents,” Gilbert said.
The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Read more here
Posted in Congress, funding, Lewiston, secondary migration, refugee, Somali, State Department | Tagged: federal assistance, immigration reform, Larry Gilbert, Lewiston, Maine, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, refugee, resettlement, Senate hearing, State Department | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on June 18, 2011
The ORR recently put out a message about the 2012 Matching Grant Program to refugee resettlement agencies. For the Matching Grant Program the ORR awards $2 in public funds for every $1 raised by the private resettlement contractor, up to a maximum of $2,200 in federal funds per capita (that is, per persons in the program, although not proportioned equally to all refugee clients).
The Office of Refugee Resettlement is very pleased to announce the publication of the 2012 Matching Grant Program funding opportunity announcement.
The Voluntary Agencies Matching Grant Program is an alternative to public cash assistance designed to enable refugees, asylees, and other ORR eligible populations to become self-sufficient through employment within 120 to 180 days from date of arrival into the United States (U.S.) and/or date of eligibility for ORR services… Services provided under this cooperative agreement
include, but are not limited to, comprehensive case management, employment services, maintenance assistance, cash allowance, and administration.
…Participating agencies agree to match the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) grant with cash and in-kind contributions of goods and services from the community. Currently, ORR awards $2 for every $1 raised by the agency up to a maximum of $2,200 in federal funds per client. At least 20 percent of the non-federal share (the grantee’s match) must be met with cash or cash equivalent; the balance may be cash, in-kind services, or donated goods. Note that while Federal and match funds are calculated and awarded on a per capita or enrolled client basis, the actual spending of such funds is not per capita based. This is to allow Matching Grant Program service providers flexibility in providing individually tailored services (higher or lower than the per capita rate) necessary for the client to achieve self-sufficiency… [emphasis added]
Program related questions should be directed to Tom Giossi in the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
(An online version is found on the ORR website.)
So, it looks like resettlement agencies are able to direct money to
individual refugee clients depending upon the individuals’ needs. The policy does therefore, however place a large amount of power over individual refugees in the hands of these small religious and/or non-profit private groups. This freedom can also be misused to reward some refugee clients and punish others, especially those that speak-up. It would be naive to think this cannot and does not happen. Refugee clients are often fearful of retaliation from authority figures – and they commonly misperceive these small, private government contractors as “authorities” – due to the negative and traumatic circumstances from which they have fled For that same reason, however, many refugee clients have learned the necessity of being courageous and speaking up for themselves when they see abuses.
My concern is the power this Matching Grant Program policy gives those agencies that have, or newly develop, a propensity to punish refugee clients who speak out. (I’ve seen it happen – this is not hypothetical.) To counter that negative and unintended consequence what we need here, at the very least, is unbiased and independent oversight – and that’s not what we have with the current cozy partnership between government oversight agencies and the private agencies they oversee. Not only is “partnership” the official policy, but most of the government monitors are former resettlement agency employees who went in search of government jobs – jobs that may be more demanding/ stimulating, but that also have much better benefits.
Therefore, who protects refugees from the real and possible abuses? Essentially no one, so far, except the outspoken and courageous community members and leaders we periodically see. I don’t think that’s enough though, and it certainly can never substitute for effective oversight.
Posted in employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, Matching Grant program, ORR, public/private partnership, retaliation, revolving door | Tagged: human rights, Match Grant, Matching grant, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, refugee, refugee resettlement, refugee resettlement agencies, refugee resettlement program, resettlement, voluntary agencies | 5 Comments »
Posted by Christopher Coen on June 16, 2011
The ORR is giving the Heartland Alliance agency in Chicago a $250,000 grant to create a training and technical assistance center that will support US resettlement agencies that resettle LGBT refugees. A Windy City Times article has more information:
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a division of ACF, has awarded a $250,000 contract to the Heartland Alliance of Chicago to create this training and technical assistance center, according to a press release from the alliance…
…The focus of this initiative will be to provide:
—Resource and capacity development in key resettlement locations;
—Sensitivity training to network staff, including overview of key issue regarding newly arriving LGBT refugees;
—Technical assistance in service delivery; and
—Development of best practices and orientation materials for refugee service providers across the country.
“As many of these refugees left their homelands specifically because of persecution related to their LGBT status, it is particularly incumbent on us to provide a safe and welcoming environment,” [ACF Acting Assistant Secretary David A.] Hansell added.
“The current resettlement network has limited understanding of the LGBT community,” said ORR Director Eskinder Negash. “In addition, no information exists in the context of available resource materials specifically for LGBT refugees. The need for these services is critical to ensure their successful resettlement in the U.S… Read more here
It’s obvious that the State Department’s and ORR’s national network of private resettlement agencies are often anything but sensitive to LGBTI refugees, as seen in Houston last year. Regular incidents include fundamental violation of human rights, with government partners who then act to protect the agencies from any real accountability. The problem I have with this grant is that the Heartland Alliance agency in Chicago has somewhat of a checkered history itself when it comes to basic violations of refugee clients’ most basic needs and rights – as I saw for myself beginning in 2001.
Posted in Chicago, funding, Heartland Alliance, LGBT refugees, ORR | Tagged: bisexual, Chicago, gay, heartland alliance, human rights, LBBTI, lesbian, lgbt, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, refugee, refugee resettlement, refugee resettlement agencies, refugee resettlement program, resettlement, training and technical assistance, transgendered | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on May 18, 2011
The ORR has finally released its mandated Report to Congress for fiscal year 2008 — two-and-a-half years late.
Posted in Annual Report to Congress, ORR | Tagged: 2008, Congress, HHS, human rights, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, refugee, refugee resesettlement agencies, refugee resettlement, refugee resettlement program, Report to Congress, resettlement | 3 Comments »
Posted by Christopher Coen on May 16, 2011
Nashville Public Radio is reporting that Tennessee’s House and Senate have passed the state refugee bill that would mandate that resettlement agencies report quarterly to local governments. It would also allow local communities to apply for a “moratorium” on refugee resettlement, with resettlement agencies, if those agencies overload local services.
…Refugee resettlement bill – The full House and Senate have now voted to require any agency that administers the state’s refugee program, which is currently Catholic Charities of Tennessee, to report quarterly to local governments.
SB 1670 from Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, which has seen a huge growth in Somali refugees, is called the Refugee Absorptive Capacity Act.
It’s designed to help local authorities plan for schools and emergency services. But it also requires Catholic Charities to accept an application from a local government for a moratorium on new refugee resettlement if a host community lacks sufficient capacity… Read more here
This bill should be unnecessary as an ORR regulation and the State Department’s Cooperative Agreement contract with resettlement agencies supposedly already require state refugee coordinators (in this case Catholic Charities itself as the state of Tennessee has dropped out of oversight responsibilities) to convene quarterly meetings with local officials. But this is the problem with under-monitored and unenforced requirements, which our national refugee resettlement program is rife with. Government oversight agencies have little authority in their relationships with refugee resettlement contractors who are thought of as “partners”. Enforcement of requirements and rigorous monitoring wouldn’t be partner-like. Hence we now have a state legislature attempting to codify a federal regulation. Doesn’t this undermine Tennessee residents’ trust of the national resettlement program? Every other lack of enforcement of basic requirements also undermines the public’s trust.
Posted in Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Cooperative Agreement, legislation, moratorium / restriction / reduction, ORR, State Department, Tennessee | Tagged: Cooperative Agreement, human rights, Nashville, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, refugee, Refugee Absorptive Capacity Act, refugee resettlement, refugee resettlement agencies, resettlement, Shelbyville, State Department, Tennessee | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on May 12, 2011
I just read through the questions and answers for the PRM’s (State Department) and ORR’s First Joint Quarterly Placement Planning Meeting held on February 7th. 2011. An introduction to the meeting notes that “participants included resettlement agencies, state refugee coordinators, state refugee health coordinators, ORR ethnic community self-help program grantees, and ORR technical assistance grantees”, and that “these quarterly meetings are a mechanism for sharing information with partners on prospective and current refugee populations slated for resettlement, the overseas processing pipeline, funding, capacity, and other related issues affecting placement planning.”
The first question that jumps out at me is question number four: “Would the PRM consider standardizing cultural orientation overseas?” This is interesting as up to now (see FY 2010 State Dept. contract documents 1,2,3,and 4) I have not seen any requirements in the domestic part of the refugee resettlement program for any standardization whatsoever for the cultural and community orientation that the State Department requires the resettlement agency contractors to give to refugees once they arrive here. Yet, one of the partners wants to know about oversees requirements?
I think this is one of the problems with the government oversight agencies (PRM and ORR) only including “partners” (contractors) and “stakeholders” in these meetings – stakeholders which, by the way, do not include local communities or refugee advocacy groups critical of the the contractors. It seems that participants and partners at these meetings lack any focus whatsoever of their own responsibilities. Instead, the partners, heavily composed of the private refugee resettlement contractors, ask the government oversight agencies to give explanations and answer about governmental responsibilities. I’m all for accountable government but why do we have a process that focuses on governmental accountability to contractors,yet not to the community and citizenry? Wouldn’t these meetings be more balanced if they included some non-insiders — people and groups that have no stakes in any of the money?
Posted in Joint Quarterly Placement Planning Meeting, Joint Quarterly Placement Planning Meeting, ORR, PRM, State Department, Volags (voluntary agencies) | Tagged: Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration, ethnic community self help, government contractors, human rights, insiders, Joint Quarterly Placement Planning Meeting, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, PRM, refugee, refugee resettlement agencies, refugee resettlement program, resettlement, stakeholders, State Department, state refugee coordinators, state refugee health coordinators, volag | Leave a Comment »