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Chairman Smith, LaHood Call for HHS Watchdog to Investigate Border Crisis Harming U.S. Foster Care System

March 05, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08), joined by Work and Welfare Subcommittee Chairman Darin LaHood (IL-16), called for the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) to launch an investigation into how the influx of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) crossing the southwest border may be increasing pressure on an already over-burdened U.S foster care system which serves nearly 400,000 children and youth removed from their homes due to neglect or abuse.

Recent reports indicate a staggering influx of over 130,000 migrant children has strained vital resources for child welfare including the availability of placements for American born children and increasing burden on state workers. Several governors have expressed serious concern with the Biden Administration’s Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) requests to divert foster care resources to UACs, and some have outright refused citing a nationwide shortage of placements, resulting in vulnerable U.S. citizen minors sleeping in caseworker offices, emergency rooms, and hotels.

“We are seriously concerned about the ability of ORR to manage the UAC program and the ‘crowding out’ effect the surge in unaccompanied children is having, including potentially devastating consequences for children in foster care already experience trauma as a result of neglect or abuse,” wrote Chairman Smith and Rep. LaHood in a letter to the HHS OIG. “The U.S. foster care system is already in a state of crisis. There is a nationwide shortage of foster homes, as our Committee recently pointed out in a letter to HHS documenting a decline in foster homes and state challenges recruiting foster placements.”

The letter requests the Inspector General determine how HHS’s handling of the border crisis has burdened state child welfare agencies, the number of state-licensed foster care parents and providers who are caring for unaccompanied children, as well as how HHS contracts with non-profit and community-based organizations are displacing children in the U.S foster care system.

You can read the full text of the letter here.