Separated at the border: Immigrant children brought to Topeka being reunited with relatives

At least three children reunited

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Some immigrant children who were separated from their parents at the border and brought to a shelter in Topeka are now reunited with their families.

On Wednesday, the Kansas Department for Children and Families and several lawmakers met with the executive director of The Villages, which has a contract with the federal government to house immigrant children.

On Thursday, State Rep. Louis Ruiz, who sat in on the meeting, told the 41 Action News Investigators at least three of the nine children who were separated from their families and housed at The Villages are now living with family. 

"Those children who were separated at the border came here with very little knowledge of what was going on," Ruiz said. "They just were separated and they came here to Kansas."

The meeting comes less than a week after Gina Meier-Hummel, Secretary of DCF, conducted an inspection of The Villages.

At the time, DCF said nine of the 44 immigrant children being cared for at The Villages were recently separated from their parents at the border. 

Ruiz said the state of Kansas has an obligation to the children.

"Once those kids hit Kansas, that makes them our responsibility," Ruiz said. "We're concerned for their security, health, well-being, their emotional well-being. Those kids are going to be going through a lot of emotional trauma."

Ruiz said The Villages is consistently placing calls and working with outside groups to help reunite the remaining children with their families. 

Sylvia Crawford, executive director of The Villages, told the 41 Action News Investigators children stay in homes and have access to several play areas on the property that include a basketball court, sand volleyball, and staff members take the kids on hikes.

Crawford said the staff’s main areas of concern are making sure the children are safe and that they’re able to reunite children with their families in a timely manner.

Ruiz said the children are receiving health care and have 24-hour access to translators at The Villages. 

"Also, they have attorneys from Kansas City and Topeka area helping these children relocate," Ruiz said. "The children seem to be doing very well knowing they may be reunited with their families or relative in the short future."

It's been reported that staff at many of the shelters across the country are not allowed to comfort or console the children. Ruiz said that's not the case at The Villages.

Ruiz and other lawmakers plan to visit The Villages and speak with the children on July 6. 

DCF also issued the following statement Thursday:

Yesterday morning, Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel met with a representative from the Governor's office, The Villages Executive Director Sylvia Crawford and Kansas legislators to discuss the immigrant children housed at The Villages, Inc. During the meeting, Syliva Crawford updated the group on the well-being of the children at the facility, and discussed the services being provided to the youth. From this meeting, and the previous inspection of the facilities, DCF is satisfied that the youth's needs are being met, and that The Villages is working to reintegrate the children with their families. As DCF licenses the facility, we will remain in contact with The Villages to ensure this quality care continues for all children there. 

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