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Separated migrant children receiving local assistance in NYC

About 300 children are being held in nonprofit facilities that contract with the federal government.

Mayor Bill de Blasio makes an unscheduled visit

Mayor Bill de Blasio makes an unscheduled visit to an East Harlem facility he says is providing services for 239 immigrant children separated from their parents. Photo Credit: Benjamin Kanter / Mayoral Photo Office

About 300 children separated from their parents at the border have received city services, including for mental health, recreational activities and legal assistance, which city officials detailed on Tuesday.

Several city agencies have banded together to offer the nonprofit foster centers and families caring for the migrant children the help they’ve said they need. This has included facilitating faster referrals to medical specialists, offering trauma-focused training sessions to foster parents and staff, offering parenting coaching for teenage mothers separated from their own mothers, and weekly field trips to places like the zoo, according to the city’s Administration for Children’s Services.

“We believe that we have a moral responsibility to make sure that these kids are safe and healthy because they are in our city,” ACS Commissioner David Hansell said. “I do think the influx of children who are being separated, which is a new population that they have never dealt with before, does seem to have put some pressure on them,” he said of the nonprofits.

Several nonprofits contracted by the federal government had taken the separated children — including one Bronx facility that took in a 9-month-old — since the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy was implemented.

Hansell said the children in New York City range “from infants to teenagers and while they’re very resilient and have been through a lot, they’re also frightened, confused, and in many cases they are clearly traumatized by their experience.”

Last month, city hospital officials said at least a dozen children separated from their families had been seen by doctors in New York City hospitals, treated for ailments like asthma, constipation and depression. At the time, Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, said the actual number of kids treated was likely much higher than reported.

Dr. Machelle Allen, the chief medical officer for NYC Health + Hospitals, said the agency is fast-tracking referrals to pediatric specialties like neurology, orthopedics and dental services, as well as supporting on-site foster agency clinical staff treating children younger than 5 years old.

“The needs of children separated from their families can be complex, and helping them as soon as they need it can minimize the potential long-term health impact,” she said, adding it is very difficult to know the exact number of foster families who have brought separated children to city hospitals “because we really don’t ask the immigration status or the home status for our patients so it’s really based upon self-disclosure.”

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