Michigan Foster Care Agencies See Surges In Applications To House Detained Children

Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter
  • Several Michigan foster care agencies like Bethany Christian Services and Samaritas saw surges in interest for fostering children who were separated from their illegal immigrant parents
  • Over 400 children in the state are in foster care due to refugee or special immigrant juvenile status, according to Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Bob Wheaton
  • Since the Trump administration reunited half of eligible migrant children with their families, most inquirers dropped their training to become licensed foster care parents because they were only interested in taking care of separated children

Several Michigan foster care agencies saw a surge in applications for people interested in housing detained children who were separated from their parents who came to the United States illegally.

Bethany Christian Services had 1,263 people reach out to the agency in June — an increase by 3,846.9 percent, the Detroit Free Press reported Monday.

“All of these people were interested in fostering separated children,” said spokeswoman for Grand Rapids-based Bethany Christian Morgan Greenberg, according to an email to the Free Press.

The agency received an average of 32 foster care-related inquiries for the first five months of the year.

“There are 411 children in foster care in Michigan who either are unaccompanied refugee minors or have special immigrant juvenile status, which means they crossed the border unaccompanied and an immigration judge granted them special immigrant juvenile status that means they are in the country legally and are eligible for services under Michigan’s Unaccompanied Minor Refugee program,” spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services Bob Wheaton said, according to the Free Press.

Bethany Christian was the only Michigan agency with a federal contract to care for children affected by the family separation issue, however, other foster care agencies also saw increased interest in fostering detained children in June.

Samaritas, a nonprofit that supports refugee children typically from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, parts of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar, had 400 people inquire by email and phone over a period of 10 to 15 days, according to the Michigan newspaper. On average, it received 10 to 20 inquiries a month.

Other Michigan foster care centers like Wellspring Lutheran Services and the Ennis Center for Children also saw a rise in the number of inquiries. (RELATED: Northern Border Faces Growing Concerns Over Illegal Immigration And Smuggling)

Some equated foster care homes accepting unaccompanied minors to kidnapping. But Randi Fremuth, 33, viewed fostering unaccompanied children as a temporary solution.

“They feel like we’re saying what’s happening is OK because we can take care of this problem, that we can make this problem right by starting an adoption process, Fremuth said, according to the Free Press. “That is absolutely not my family’s goal. Temporary foster care is exactly what we are trying to provide.”

“We can be here to support them, but ultimately, the need to be with their family. … I cannot sit by and let these children go to shelters or detention facilities because these kids aren’t pawns,” Fremuth added.

Since the Trump administration reunited half of the eligible migrant children with their parents, Greenberg said Bethany Christian expected many inquirers to drop from four months of training to become licensed foster care providers for older refugee or unaccompanied children.

“Most inquiries were clear they were only interested in the placement of a separated child,” Greenberg said, according to the Free Press.

Michelle Haskell from Samaritas said there was a high need for foster care in the state.

“There’s always a big number of children who desperately need safe and loving homes, especially teenagers and children with severe behavioral issues and children with medical issues,” Haskell said to the Free Press. “Most people come and they want a toddler or a baby.”

Michigan had 13,691 in foster care due to abuse, neglect and other circumstances in addition to the children who were in the foster care system related to refugee or immigration statuses.

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