CHICAGO (CBS) — Representatives of a shelter housing migrant children separated from their parents at the border were facing tough questions from Chicago aldermen on Monday, amid allegations of abuse at the facility.
Heartland Alliance representatives said they welcome the invitation to appear at a City Council Finance Committee meeting to talk about accusations at one of their facilities, and promised aldermen they’d get to the bottom of what happened.
A recent Washington Post article described children being shouted at, dragged, and threatened by the staff at Casa Guadalupe in Chicago.
Young boys told reporters they felt like prisoners. One said he saw a 5-year-old repeatedly injected with something that made him fall asleep.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has called for a federal investigation into those allegations.
A Durbin spokesperson said in a phone conversation Wednesday, Heartland officials assured the Senator that they have “already begun gathering and reviewing incident reports of children at their facilities, reviewing medical records, examining their policies and protocols, and reviewing staff disciplinary records.”
The charges behind the move include 9-year-old Diogo saying he felt like a prisoner after being isolated nearly three weeks with the chickenpox. He says staff put up a gate to keep him in his room.
“We think ‘Would I do that to our own children?’ The answer is no,” McIntyre stated.
10-year-old Diego says he was casted for a broken arm without seeing a doctor.
Heartland Alliance representatives at City Hall said they support a federal investigation into the allegations. Then they explained what immigrant children normally experience at their facilities, including medical evaluations and meetings with family reunification specialists.
“Children in our shelters receive six hours of education a day, participate in cultural exchange activities, science fairs, go on field trips. Children in our program also have time and space to play; play games, go outside and play sports, go to the movies, beach, and the zoo,” Heartland Alliance executive director David Sinski said.
Beyond official testimony, aldermen also asked Heartland Alliance officials to their meeting to help them decide on an ordinance about requiring child welfare facilities in the city to be licensed by the city.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has confirmed it is looking into the allegations of abuse and neglect. Heartland has some 450 children in their care. It is believed 69 of them are migrant children separated from their parents at the border.