A 6-year-old girl who was separated from her mother under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy was reportedly sexually abused by another child at a facility for migrant children run by Southwest Key, according to a form provided by the child’s family.
As first reported by The Nation, the child was assaulted twice during her stay at Casa Glendale in the Phoenix area.
The child, without any parental permission, also was forced to sign a document saying she would stay away from anyone associated with the abuse, according to a migrant advocate.
Jeff Eller, a spokesman for Southwest Key, told The Arizona Republic Friday that officials in charge of caring for the child and handling the case made a mistake labeling the incident as “sexual abuse,” when it should have been characterized as “inappropriate behavior.”
Southwest Key, a Texas-based nonprofit, houses more than 1,500 migrant children in Arizona, California and Texas under a $458 million contract with the federal Unaccompanied Alien Children Program. Eight of those facilities are in Arizona.
Employees at two Arizona Southwest Key facilities have been accused of inappropriate contact with minors on at least two occasions since 2015, including an incident that led to a conviction for sexual abuse, police records show.
Southwest Key facilities, which already were set up to house children who crossed the border illegally without a parent, were a quick fix for dealing with the flow of children forcibly separated from their parents under the “zero tolerance” policy.
Mark Lane, a family spokesman who runs Poppa’s House, an organization that supports migrants, said Southwest Key is covering its tracks about the abuse.
“It happened, and it happened twice,” Lane said of the abuse. “That’s a nice way to backtrack. They got to put lipstick on it, that’s what spokespeople and publicists do.”
Lane said the child was forced to sign a form that told her she had to stay away from her attacker.
“For a 6-year-old to be taken into a counseling session like that and to be held responsible and to be told to sign a document like that,” he said. “People can’t believe they had a 6-year-old girl sign that she was responsible for making sure she didn’t get molested again.”
The form says, “I confirm that the safety plan was reviewed with me and I understand that it is my responsibility to follow the safety plan.”
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