Norcross demands visit with migrant children in Camden agency’s care
CAMDEN – Amid a national uproar over the separation of children from their families at the Mexican border, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross complained Thursday that he couldn’t immediately visit with migrant children now in the care of a Camden-based social services agency.
The Center for Family Services is presently caring for 27 boys and girls, including four teen mothers and their babies, while the agency works to reunify the children with their families.
The agency’s program is funded through a $4 million grant through the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Refugee Resettlement. The office is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“I am actively trying to visit separated children who are now in South Jersey,” Norcross, D-Camden, said in a statement released by his legislative office. “Unfortunately, HHS has a two-week notice policy that they’re refusing to waive in these extreme circumstances.
“The public’s representative has a right to visit these children and make sure they are being treated well and that efforts are being made to reunify them with their families.”
Jen Hammill, associate vice president of development and public relations for the Center for Family Services, said all tour requests must be scheduled through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Last year, the South Jersey nonprofit operated 70 programs with a $43 million budget, according to its annual report.
The agency has cared for 90 migrant children since it began its federally funded refugee resettlement program more than a year ago. About 95 percent of those children arrived in the U.S. without a parent, according to Hammill.
Hammill said the children are in a home setting “with bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, porch and a yard as you would expect in a typical home setting.” She said the homes’ “paint colors were selected to create welcoming spaces” with wall hangings in English and Spanish.
“Home-cooked meals are enjoyed in the dining room each day, and daily activities provide the opportunity for kids to be kids,” Hammill said. “Every child receives therapeutic services using a trauma-informed approach to promote safety and healing.”
Norcross was unavailable to comment Thursday beyond his released statement. A representative from his office said the congressman has “always had positive experiences with Center for Family Services,” and said the agency was willing to accommodate a visit, but is constricted by rules set by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Norcross said he plans to speak with the children directly about their experiences.
“Right now, it seems easier to visit nuclear weapons sites than kids in my own district who have been forcibly taken from their parents,” he said.
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