A local facility for troubled teens is housing between 10 and 20 immigrant children and teenagers recently separated from their families as a result of President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy for immigrants entering the country at non-authorized U.S. border crossings.
That’s according to U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, who visited Youth For Tomorrow in Bristow for about two hours Friday morning, according to his staff.
Kaine (D) went to the facility, located on Linton Hall Road, with a member of his staff. He spoke with some of the children in Spanish and left feeling they were being “appropriately cared for,” according to member of the senator’s staff.
Some of the children he met with were girls, the staff member said. They were between the ages of 10 and 17 and had arrived since April.
Kaine asked Youth For Tomorrow staff how the children were doing, and they confirmed many had been “traumatized” by their experiences, Kaine’s staff said in an email.
Youth for Tomorrow, a residential facility for troubled teens launched by former Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs in 1986, has been caring for immigrant teens under a contract with federal officials for six years.
But prior to April 2018, those teens arrived at the border on their own, without a parent or guardian.
In a statement, Kaine said he is grateful to Youth For Tomorrow staff for the opportunity to visit the facility as well as what he called their “focus” on reuniting the children with their families.
Kaine called on the Trump administration to identify each facility holding immigrant children separated from their families and to open them to elected officials for inspection.
“The Trump Administration needs to assure us that every single one of the children they separated from their parents is quickly and safely returned to their families,” Kaine’s statement said.
“The first step toward that goal is identifying where every child is being held -- releasing a list of those facilities -- and letting Members of Congress visit all of those locations.”
“I’m thankful that Youth for Tomorrow allowed me to visit today and appreciate the organization’s focus on family reunification,” he added. “The fact that HHS isn’t being transparent about many other facilities across the country makes me worry about the conditions that many of these kids are facing.”
News of Kaine’s visit comes a day after images of Youth For Tomorrow were featured on national news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC as a possible shelter for some of the more than 2,000 children who have been separated from their families at the U.S. border since the new policy went into effect.
Trump signed an executive order ending the policy this week, but critics of the administration remain concerned about whether federal officials have the ability or information needed to reunite children with their parents.
Multiple calls to Youth for Tomorrow for comment have not been returned since Thursday morning.
Kaine’s visit also comes a day after news broke about harsh treatment of immigrant teens at a juvenile detention center outside Staunton, Virginia.
According to news reports, immigrant children as young as 14 housed at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center made sworn statements, made public in court filings, that guards there stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Thursday called for a state investigation into those allegations.
News that immigrant children separated from their parents are being housed at Youth For Tomorrow came as a surprise to Virginia state Del. Lee Carter, D-50th, who said he’s been trying for days to find out if the facility is housing such youngsters.
In a phone interview Friday night, Carter said he’d so far received only a public statement from Youth For Tomorrow Chief Executive Officer Gary Jones that did not explicitly disclose the facility is caring for children separated from their families at the border. The facility also declined to let Carter visit the children, he said.
“I asked them if I could visit, and was told that request was denied, at least for now, because of HHS,” Carter said, referring to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Carter said he knows Youth For Tomorrow is a reputable facility but is concerned about whether efforts are being made to reunite the children there with their parents or family members.
Youth for Tomorrow is in Carter’s district, which includes the City of Manassas and western Prince William.
“Those children should not have been separated from their families, period, end of story,” Carter said. “My primary focus right now is trying to figure out what’s going on, and HHS is stonewalling me.”
Reach Jill Palermo at email@example.com.