As child advocacy organizations, our north star is the safety and well-being of children. We believe that every child should be cared for in a way that preserves their health, safety, and dignity — no matter who they are or where they come from. And when lawmakers promote policies that threaten to harm children, we will speak up.
This is why we penned a letter — with 70 organizations, 24 from Texas — to Texas Governor Greg Abbott asking him to withdraw his May 31 executive order that would remove licenses from children’s shelters that serve unaccompanied children.
When unaccompanied children arrive at our border, it’s because the homes they fled are impoverished or unsafe. Our country’s laws and stated values dictate that these children be cared for just like any other child who is separated from family — in small, state-licensed settings — while our government facilitates their reunification with family and adjustment to their new life. State licensing is an important part of that care. Licensing ensures that children are cared for in safe environments, by the right professionals, and with access to services that support their health and well-being.
Texas has approximately half of the federal government’s licensed placements for unaccompanied children. Gov. Abbott’s order threatens to disrupt children’s care, put children in harm’s way, and deny children the care any child — in any state — should have. Furthermore, the state’s interim regulation to exempt shelters that serve unaccompanied children from licensing removes these facilities from state monitoring and oversight, which is important for reinforcing children’s proper care.
We all know that protecting children and the people who care for them is a deeply held value in Texas and the nation. The Governor’s order goes against those values. Instead of doing more to address the trauma that these children have experienced, his order undermines the very systems that we have put in place to care for them. Harm to children should never be tolerated and our organizations will always speak up for any child in harm’s way.
This blog post was co-authored by Patrick Bresette, Executive Director at the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas, and Miriam Abaya, Senior Director for Immigration and Children’s Rights at First Focus on Children, and is cross-posted on First Focus on Children’s Blog.