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Arkansas Gov. concerned about HHS vetting process for unaccompanied minors in the state

Hutchinson says that several unaccompanied minors were brought into DHS custody in the last month because of the living conditions and “lack of care."

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Governor Asa Hutchinson has expressed his concerns regarding border security and the impact current policies are having on the Natural State.

During his weekly press briefing, Gov. Hutchinson said the Department of Human Services (DHS) brought it to his attention that the number of unaccompanied minors coming to Arkansas to live with sponsors has grown tremendously.

According to the governor, during the last fiscal year, which ended September 30, the federal government released 672 unaccompanied minors to sponsors in Arkansas.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Refugee Settlement, vet the sponsors to make sure they can handle the child before placing them in the home. 

“What we have seen is that the sponsors are not properly vetted and that in many instances we’re having to take custody of those unaccompanied minors that have been housed with sponsors that are really not properly vetted and qualified and responsible enough to care for these unaccompanied minors,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson says the state has seen an increase in the number of calls to Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline in reference to the unaccompanied minors, causing the state to take the children into custody. He says in the last month, seven of the minors were brought into DHS custody because of the living conditions and the “lack of care” of the sponsors.

“Some of the children have been abandoned and others are living with sponsors and conditions that are deplorable,” Hutchinson said.

The governor said under state law, DHS has an obligation and a responsibility to take care of the health and safety of these children, regardless of their immigration status.

Unaccompanied minors, if taken from their sponsors, are not eligible for Medicaid or federal benefits, meaning that whenever they are in DHS custody, the state is responsible for the health, shelter and care cost of the child.

Gov. Hutchinson announced he is sending a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services in Washington D.C. expressing concerns about the number of unaccompanied minors not being in vetted sponsor homes.

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