Detaining immigrant children has become a $1 billion business, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Grants from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children” climbed to $958 million in 2017, up from $74.5 million a decade earlier, an AP analysis found.
Nearly 12,000 children ranging in age from a few months to 17 years old are now being housed in dozens of facilities across 15 states, AP said. The children are being housed while they await immigration proceedings for their parents or asylum proceedings if they arrived in the U.S. without their parents.
“It was never intended to be a foster care system with more than 10,000 children in custody at an immediate cost to the federal taxpayer of over $1 billion dollars per year,” Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families, a division of HHS, said in a statement to the AP.
The largest recipients of federal grant money for such child housing and welfare services have been Southwest Key, which has gotten $1.39 billion for shelters, and Baptist Child & Family Services, which has received $942 million.
HHS in May issued requests for bids for five more projects that could cost more than $500 million. Additional contracts are expected to open for bidding in October, AP said.