Governor O’Malley Announces Next Steps Forward in Compassionately Dealing with Unaccompanied Children
ANNAPOLIS, MD (August 5, 2014) – Governor Martin O’Malley today announced the next steps that the state is taking in supporting the federal government’s efforts to help children seeking refuge from violence in Central America. The O’Malley-Brown Administration believes that by bringing the community together, leveraging public-private partnerships and working with faith leaders, non-profits, and the federal government, we can ensure that these children are treated with compassion, are kept safe and are afforded due process through federal legal proceedings.
“Our state and our nation have core values that have long drawn our citizens together and shaped our identity: e pluribus unum, from many, one,” said Governor O’Malley. “Now our nation has the opportunity to reaffirm our ideals by helping Central American children fleeing violence in their home countries. Maryland was founded as a refuge for those fleeing religious persecution and we will continue to honor our founders by working with our federal partners and other states to provide refuge and humane treatment to these children as they go through federal legal proceedings.”
After meetings with leaders from Maryland’s interfaith community, who called on all communities to care for these vulnerable children, Governor O’Malley directed the Office for Children (GOC), the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives (GOCI) and the Department of Human Resources (DHR) to work with the federal government on three avenues of action. First, place unaccompanied children with relatives or sponsors already living in Maryland. Second, place the unaccompanied children in federal foster care. The third option is to place unaccompanied children in small group care settings if required.
To harness the outpouring of support and offers for assistance from around the state, a webpage has been developed to let those interested know how they can become foster parents as well as answer some frequently asked questions about the process. The webpage is accessible through both the state’s website (www.maryland.gov) and DHRs website (www.dhr.maryland.gov).
“Many meaningful and generous offers of assistance have come forward from across Maryland,” said Governor O’Malley. “The website will serve as a critical link between organizations and people with capacity and the children and families who need assistance.”
Additionally, GOC, DHR and GOCI are meeting with groups and organizations to help address the prioritized needs for children who have been placed in the community. The meetings identify existing community supports for basic economic needs such as food and clothing, legal services for immigration proceedings and access to health care and to develop ways to fill any gaps in needed services. As the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is tasked with paying for the cost of care while the children are in federal foster care, the O’Malley-Brown Administration is working to license any provider that is awarded under a federal grant opportunity recently issued by HHS.
Working in conjunction with the federal government, the General Assembly, interested providers and residents, the O’Malley-Brown Administration is fully committed to responding to this humanitarian need and to ensure that all children in Maryland are treated with compassion.