WPCNR COUNTY CLARION-LEDGER From the Westchester County Department of Communications. with reporting by John F. Bailey June 21, 2018;
With immigrant children separated from their parents at the southwestern U.S. border arriving without notice in Westchester County, a Westchester County spokesperson, asked by WPCNR if the county was mobilizing the resources of the County Health Department to participate in some way with the immigrant children said the county was in the process of investigating what the Department of Health could provide.
Carolyn Fortino, Associate Communications Director told WPCNR, “We are looking into that now.” She said the county would issue details when particulars are available.
This may be hard to do. Because the government is prohibiting local agencies from providing services at this time.
Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry was reported to have some immigrant refugees in its care, but did not answer New York Times inquiries on what was happening to them, and was referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Governor Andrew Cuomo in an op-ed piece in The New York Times this morning alleged “the federal government is prohibiting New York from providing health and mental health services to the hundreds of children who have already been placed by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement in centers around the state–even though the state (NY) regulates those centers.”
The Office of Refugee Resettlement has not told New York City officials how many children have been sent to New York and where they are being housed according to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, quoted in an article bylined reporter Liz Robbins in the New York Times today, as saying:
“How is it possible that none of us knew that there were 239 kids (immigrant refugees) right here in our own city? How is the federal government holding back that information from the people of this city and holding back the help these kids need?”
By coincidence, the county has announced it has located and helped 130 runaway and sexually trafficked youths with its “Safe Harbour” program.
The county is uniquely qualified to help the Office of Refugee Resettlement in helping traumatized children.
Coincidentally, County Executive George Latimer announced today that the Westchester County Department of Social Services (DSS) is tackling the issue of sex trafficking head-on, by implementing the “Safe Harbour” Program.
To date more than 130 runaway and sexually trafficked youth have been recovered in Westchester, Latimer said.
The Safe Harbour Program identifies youth who have been trafficked, sexually exploited or are at risk of victimization, and ensures that they are removed from dangerous situations.
Westchester was one of 5 original counties to have been selected by New York State to implement the Program in 2013, to develop expertise and provide guidance on preventing sex trafficking to neighboring counties.
Latimer said: “I am proud that Westchester County is taking the lead to combat sex trafficking in our communities. We must continue to support and work closely with our local departments and community partners, to help raise awareness on this important issue, and ensure that fewer youth are falling victim to sex trafficking.”
DSS works in partnership with a number of different County Departments on sex trafficking cases to ensure that all needs are met, including Public Safety, Probation, Community Mental Health, the Office for Women and a number of community service providers.
The County also received a $25,000 grant from the State to safeguard and protect youth that are aging out of foster care. Two private investigators have been tasked with seeking out missing youth from the County’s foster care system, and trauma response services have been provided.
Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Social Services Kevin McGuire said: “As one of the five original New York counties to begin Safe Harbor work in 2013, the Department has become a model throughout the State, providing intensive trauma focused services to nearly 500 Westchester youth who have been trafficked or are at risk for trafficking, and have partnered with two private investigators to recover missing youth who are at greatest risk for trafficking. Through this program, we work closely with law enforcement, do not give up on these youth, and provide youth and their families with the specialized services they need to escape the perpetrators.”