So there's a lot to say here. First, let me be extremely, extremely clear. This is a concentration camp for children. They are taking teenagers and they are putting them in tents and keeping them in a confined space and there is no word on when they will let them out.
Initially they said New Year's but now they are saying maybe 2020. So very possibly never. Children. Children who are not being given proper mental health care for the incredible amount of trauma they have suffered and are continuing to suffer.
The last we heard about one of these camps, children had tried to kill themselves, they were running away, they were harming themselves openly. There were not enough staff and those who were there weren't trained in restraints and functionally had no way to intervene.
That seems like forever ago now. And googling for it I found... many more stories of awful things happening at these detention camps. Including this one from June.…
Let's be clear. We are imprisoning children. We are harming children. We are not taking care of them. They are hurting themselves or being hurt. All for the crime of trying to come to our country to escape their homes. Which you do not do unless you need to.
And now there's this. Background checks have been waived by the director of ORR. "None of the 2,100 staff has gone through FBI fingerprint checks either, but the Tornillo contractor says staff are vetted in other ways." No mention on what those other ways are. Or could be.
There's a reason I needed to make this thread. It ties closely to my job and what we're dealing with right now. I'm going to tell you all some facts about what homeless shelters for teens (as well as group homes for foster kids, although I know less about how that's playing out)
are currently dealing with, at least in Washington state.
So prior to about 2 months ago, the way that our shelter worked (and the surrounding shelters) was that when we hired a new person, we would send in their background check and they could work while we waited.
While we were waiting for them to get cleared, they could only work with someone who was already cleared, but that was a minor scheduling frustration and not the end of the world. It got a little frustrating when turnover was high and we had a ton of new people.
But two months ago that changed. A federal law went into place called the Family First Prevention Services Act. It may have many excellent things about it. I honestly don't know. It was apparently part of the government shutdown deal.…
But we had to change some of our WAC's (Washington state laws) because of it. And one in particular, there was just this one line. I don't have it handy but I'll look for it tomorrow. What it said was that no one could work in a shelter for youth unless they were interim cleared.
Let's talk a little about clearance. I am not an expert (open to anyone who is) but I'll tell you what I know. There are basically two stages of it. Initially you send off your background check information, there's a lot of running it back and forth from desk to desk.
At SOME POINT when the basics are through, they ask you to go get fingerprinted and usually an interim clearance comes soon after that. Full clearance can take a month or two longer. But interim clearance takes usually at LEAST 60 to 90 days.
So that means that when we hire someone now, they can't work in the shelter for 60 to 90 days. That's assuming that they don't have anything on their background that will hang things up at all. 2 to 3 months. Before you can not just work but be IN the shelter.
That means I can't even take you down there for training, or we're liable if something happens. We actually have it a little easier than some of the surrounding shelters. We have two programs in our building, a shelter and a drop in program, and the drop in one isn't licensed.
That means that technically we can hire them and have them work some hours at the drop in center while we are waiting however long for their clearance to go through. But we don't have enough staff. We've had to close multiple nights already because we don't have enough people.
NO ONE'S clearance has come through yet. There is a backlog right now so it's worse, but even when there's not it won't be great. And, this may surprise you, but we are a nonprofit with no money. We do not pay people well. It's a lot to ask for them to hang out and wait.
When this legislation came down, I was not the only one torn between wondering if this could honestly be due to unbelievable stupidity/incompetence... or if there was actual intent. If someone actually wanted our programs to fail. It sounds paranoid but you wonder.
We are not the only short-staffed shelter. Every shelter around us is short staffed. The work that my staff does is incredibly hard and draining and not paid well enough and the turnover is high. This is not a long term career. This is a starter social work position.
And now there's this. They were SO CONCERNED about the welfare of children and teenagers that it was critical that they put this crippling legislation into place, because it would apparently make them safer. Even though it wouldn't. Even though everyone who WORKS in this field
is saying please find another way, you are causing tremendous harm. Please figure this out. But the children! they say. And our directors continue to send emails and make phone calls and try desperately to figure out how to keep our doors open so we can still SERVE KIDS.
Meanwhile there are teen concentration camps. Camps where they are storing teenagers by the hundreds. Teens with incredible trauma, with no family present with them. Teens who need counseling and love and compassion and to BE WITH THEIR FUCKING FAMILIES.
And here in the midst of these hellish conditions they've created, where everything is just a powder keg waiting for a match (although that would imply nothing bad has happened yet but Idk what metaphor to use), they decide eh. Maybe those background checks aren't important.
Maybe we just hire who's available.
Look, let's be clear. Background checks do not INHERENTLY protect against predators. There are critiques to be made of background checks, but that is a different thread. They are just one mechanism to try to pick out the most obvious threats.
But they can't even be bothered with that. Even though it was SO important. So that leaves two options. Either I was right, and this really was intended to work against us, or they just don't care about THESE kids because they're brown. Or who knows. Maybe both.
There's honestly no good outcome here. There's no good end to this. I don't know how to fix it, I don't know what to do. I feel so much rage and helplessness and grief. I won't say this is not who we are because it is exactly who we are. But what the fuck do we do about it?
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