Former Worker Offers Glimpse Into Homestead Detention Center

A former worker at a detention center for migrant children in Homestead is giving insight into what it's like inside the facility.

A 27-page manual exclusively obtained by NBC 6 is just a small part of the training that goes into youth care workers hired at the Homestead Shelter for Unaccompanied Children who look after the kids temporarily housed there.

The former worker at the facility, who NBC 6 is not identifying, said she worked there for nearly a year under the Obama administration and was hired by subcontractor Comprehensive Health Services, the same company that now runs the facility.

"Based on what I saw they were doing the best job possible, some realistically living better in shelters than in their own homes," the woman said.

The former worker said she is speaking out to dispel current rumors about the facility, where about 1,000 children are being housed.

"The kids had to be supervised at all times, never out of my sight," she said. "It was eight children per one youth care worker."

Kids would get brand new clothes, shoes and toiletries upon entry, as well as medical care, even vaccines and doctor visits if necessary, the woman said.

"I was called to take this child to doctor's appointments, go with them in a special van that the shelter has," she said.

But she admits it wasn’t perfect. The youth care worker says she looked after children ages 11-17 and said some of the younger ones ran into issues while there.

"The time I was there a couple of gangs started to build up inside cause the bigger kids take advantage of the little kids," she said.

Kids are also at the mercy of how soon a sponsor can be found, be it a relative or approved guardian, and it takes time.

"They just come with a little piece of paper in their belt with phone numbers written on there," she said.

The woman says case managers prioritize the older kids because it’s a race against time. Once they are 18 they are deported. But she says every day there is hope children are reunified with their families or places, and they are.

NBC 6 reached out to Comprehensive Health Services for comment, and they referred us to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They’ve acknowledged receipt of the request but have not responded otherwise.

The former youth care worker says despite the influx of children, they are in good hands.

"Most of the women are mothers and fathers and you know they can feel," she said.

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