Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (TDS) suspended the license of Chattanooga’s unaccompanied migrant minor housing facility, La Casa de Sydney. The agency running the facility was the Baptiste Group – according to the suspension order, all minors were moved from the facility on June 22. Since their suspension is not time limited, the Baptiste Group may request an informal hearing before an administrative judge by next Tuesday.
The Tennessee Star received a tip on Thursday afternoon of this information. That evening, several hours after placing inquiries with TDS, we received a formal press release and the order of suspension from TDS. The press release explained that their findings from a June 3 visit to the facility prompted the suspension.
Tennessee legislators will draft legislation to increase transparency and establish protective measures for the sponsorship of unaccompanied migrant children. The federal government says that sponsors are “almost always a parent or close relative” – but that’s not always the case. Lawmakers’ urgency to increase transparency and establish protective measures for sponsorship heightened after it was revealed that Governor Bill Lee’s administration has continued licensing for a Chattanooga shelter without apparent provisions in place to protect the housed migrant children from traffickers and cartels.
The Chattanooga shelter is run by the Baptiste Group, a Georgia-based national group that provides emergency shelter services for unaccompanied migrant children – usually for up to 30 days, excepting complications. Last May, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families contracted with the Baptiste Group for a conditional Residential Child Care Agency License in Chattanooga. The three-year contract, set to expire last August, anticipated nearly $7.5 million in costs to house up to 100 children.