“New Horizon, which operated a residential facility in North Carolina for children requiring full-time care, had a running list of state violations, including ‘failure to hire necessary medical personnel,’” CNN reports Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations findings said. “Less than a year after state officials revoked the facility’s operating license, HHS awarded New Horizon a grant for unaccompanied children in a new state facility.”
VisionQuest should have already been on the radar as well. In 2017, the company lost a contract with the city of Philadelphia after staffers at a facility in Philadelphia were found to have physically abused kids on their watch. “There, staff members had choked, slapped and injured children, and promised to ‘make life a living hell’ for them, according to state inspection records later obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer,” Reveal reported last year.
Plans by VisionQuest to open a facility in California earlier this year were met with protests by community members, including Tony Cárdenas. “At this moment little to no information has been provided to the community,” he wrote at the time to HHS Sec. Alex Azar and unlawfully appointed acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. “This is unacceptable.” The Los Angeles City Council then responded by unanimously passing a temporary measure blocking new private detention facilities within the city.
But apparently all of that was missed—or maybe just ignored—by the administration. Because of that track record, the companies now have difficulty opening facilities elsewhere. “This means that taxpayers have paid for facilities that will never open,” senators said. The report said that while the contracts are now kaput, over $30 million has already been shelled out to the companies. “The department is now trying to recuperate those funds, but that’s dependent on whether the grantees appeal and the results,” CNN continued.
The report said that HHS claims its addressing concerns, including “requiring disclosure of licensing issues and allegations of abuse.” Was … that not required before? Dear Lord. “Our bipartisan report found that the Office of Refugee Resettlement failed to exercise appropriate oversight,” Republican committee member Rob Portman said according to the report, “and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on organizations that could not acquire state licenses to open the planned shelter facilities.”