- Associated Press - Monday, June 25, 2018

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Nine of 44 immigrant children placed under the care of a Kansas nonprofit working under contract with the federal government were separated from their parents at the border, a state agency said Monday.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families said in a news release that a staff member on Friday visited the non-profit called The Villages Inc. at the request of Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer. The inspection looked at four group homes outside of Topeka operated by The Villages.

The DCF said that of the 44 children in placement, nine were separated from their parents and the rest were unaccompanied minors.

“I am pleased that the President is taking steps to address the separation of families. Our hope and expectation is that these children will be reunited with their families in the near future,” Colyer said in a statement.

Officials at the Villages said plans are in place to meet the physical health, mental health and educational needs of the children, DCF said. The agency’s secretary, Gina Meier-Hummel, plans a follow-up meeting later this week.

Earlier Monday, former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, a Democrat, said he had assembled a team of 10 lawyers to provide legal services to the children. Meier-Hummel, her deputy and Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Democrat, also are expected to be part of the meeting, along with a representative from The Villages.

“What we are trying to do is trying to get the kids that we have here in Kansas legal representation so that we can work to get them reintegrated with their parents and make sure they do not fall through the cracks,” Ward said.

Some of the children may already have lawyers representing them, he said. Nine of the children are under the age of 12.

The usual turnaround for the placement of immigrant children who stay at The Villages is 30 to 35 days, but they are not sure what the turnaround will be for those children who were separated from their parents when they came into the country, Grissom said.

“Our position is Kansans have a responsibility when these children are brought in to care for them and to address concerns of reintegration, and I certainly believe child welfare is a state matter,” Ward said. “I went through the whole Constitution several times, I don’t remember any section where the framers enumerated the right for the federal government to do child care. Now, of course, their argument is this doesn’t fall into child care. It falls under immigration, which is foreign affairs.”

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