Durbin seeks probe of Chicago shelter for Afghan children

November 3, 2021 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin called for an investigation Wednesday of a Chicago shelter housing Afghan refugee children after a published report detailed instances of children hurting themselves and ill-equipped staff.

ProPublica reported dozens of police calls to the shelter in the the past month for suicide attempts, assaults and mental health disturbances. The shelter is one of four run by the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance which is caring for about 80 Afghan children.

Durbin said the report “raises serious and troubling allegations about the health and safety of children” and sent letters to agencies including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The Heartland Alliance said it supports an investigation. In a statement, it said the Afghan children represented the “largest sudden influx of same language youth” in its care at one time and officials were expanding the availability of Dari and Pashto speakers.


“The country must strengthen this infrastructure to meet the cultural, language and mental health needs of children who have experienced heartbreaking traumas, including the Afghan youth who have suddenly arrived here in the last two months,” the organization said.

More than 900 Afghan children have come to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors since August, according to Durbin. Most have been reunited with family but roughly 200 remain in the care of the resettlement office.