Federal officials lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children last year after a government agency placed the minors in the homes of adult sponsors in communities across the country, according to testimony before a Senate subcommittee Thursday, the AP reports. The Health and Human Services Department has a limited budget to track the welfare of vulnerable unaccompanied minors, and realized that 1,475 children could not be found after making follow-up calls to check on their safety, an agency official says. Federal officials came under fire two years ago after rolling back child protection policies meant for minors fleeing violence in Central America. In a follow-up hearing on Thursday, senators said the agencies had failed to take full responsibility for their care and had delayed crucial reforms needed to keep them from falling into the hands of human traffickers.
"You are the worst foster parents in the world. You don't even know where they are," said Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Since the dramatic surge of border crossings in 2013, the government has placed more than 180,000 unaccompanied minors with parents or other adult sponsors who are expected to care for the children and help them attend school while they seek legal status in immigration court. An AP investigation found in 2016 that more than two dozen unaccompanied children had been sent to homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved, or forced to work for little or no pay. Since then, the government has boosted outreach to at-risk children, but advocates say it is hard to know how many minors may be in dangerous conditions. Click for the full story.