BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts has among the fewest unaccompanied immigrant children in government custody, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.
And the number of children has held relatively steady even as other states are dealing with surging populations under President Donald Trump's administration.
A closer look at the local program:
BY THE NUMBERS
Massachusetts ranks 15th out of the 17 states that have migrant youths in custody, either in large-scale detention centers and shelters, or in foster care programs. The state has averaged a little over a dozen migrant youths since Trump took office. The state had 14 migrant children in custody in April 2017. It had 13 as of Monday. The number of children peaked at 17 last November and December.
A FOSTER CARE PROGRAM
Massachusetts does not operate shelters for unaccompanied minors. It places them into foster and group homes instead. The state Office for Refugees and Immigrants and Massachusetts Department of Children and Families jointly administer the program. Children are considered in the custody of DCF, meaning they're entitled to all the services that agency offers.
A FAITH-BASED MANAGER
Ascentria Care Alliance has managed the program for the state since the 1970s, according to the organization's brochure . The Worcester-based nonprofit was formerly known as Lutheran Social Services of New England and is a member of Lutheran Services in America, a national network of social ministries. The agency didn't respond to requests for comment.
Children sent to Massachusetts under the federal Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program must get prior federal approval and have the immigration status of refugee, asylee, Cuban or Haitian Entrant, or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status; or be a certified victim of trafficking, according to the office of state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. The federal government must also determine that reunification with the child's parents is not possible.
Ascentria places youths into foster families, group homes or other residential settings. It also provides case management, health insurance benefits, education and training to develop independent living skills, according to its brochure.
Massachusetts' program for years served mainly Southeast Asian youths coming from Vietnam and Cambodia, according to a questionnaire for prospective foster parents. In recent years, it has also served children from the African nations of Congo, Eritrea and Somalia, as well as Central American youths. The program consists mostly of high school age boys, but youths can remain in the program until the age of 22.
Read AP's national investigation into the government's shelter program for migrant children here .
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