Many of the thousands of children separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border under the Trump administration’s paused zero-tolerance policy went to one of Texas’ 32 state-licensed facilities.

Those shelters, licensed as child care providers that may accept unaccompanied minors as well as children taken from their families, have a long history of regulatory inspections that have uncovered serious health and safety deficiencies.

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A Texas Tribune review of state records found that over the last three years, inspectors have found 435 health and safety violations at the facilities, which can house anywhere from 20 to more than 1,000 children at a time. Of those, regulators coded 139 violations as “high” in severity and 166 as “medium high.”

The facilities are required to provide basic care to children of detained migrants, including medical care and at least six hours of daily schooling. Their inspection reports, though often light on details, paint a picture of abuses young children may face in a foreign environment, where many face language barriers and a history of trauma from the journey to the United States.

Counts of children on this page are current as of May, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Southwest Key Programs Inc.

FacilityCityViolations in
past 3 years
Unaccompanied children
(As of 5/2018)
Southwest Key – Casa PadreBrownsville131,006
Southwest Key – Casa QuetzalHouston23233
Southwest Key – Nueva EsperanzaBrownsville43208
Southwest Key – Casa AntiguaSan Benito23200
Southwest Key – Casa MontezumaChannelview17184
Southwest KeyConroe15178
Southwest Key – Casa Rio GrandeSan Benito20147
Southwest KeyCantuillo384
Southwest Key – Casa HoustonHouston1182
Southwest Key – Casita Del ValleClint273
Southwest Key – La EsperanzaBrownsville1671
Southwest Key – CombesHarlingen1060
Southwest Key – El PresidenteBrownsville1356
Southwest Key – Casa FranklinEl Paso1152
Southwest Key – Casa BlancaSan Antonio1248
Southwest KeyHouston1443
Totals2462,725

Southwest Key Programs, the private contractor operating a converted Walmart in Brownsville as a shelter for more than 1,000 children, is the largest operation in Texas authorized to take in children separated from their parents. Founded in 1987, the nonprofit says its mission is to “provide quality education, safe shelter and alternatives to incarceration for thousands of youth each day.”

Inspectors found 246 violations at the group’s 16 facilities in the last three years, records show. On October 11, 2017, at a Southwest Key facility in San Benito, an employee appeared drunk when he showed up to work. A drug test later found the employee was over the legal alcohol limit to drive. Inspectors also found shampoo dispensers filled with hand sanitizer and bananas that had turned black. In two instances, children were made to wait before receiving medical care: three days for a child with a broken wrist and two weeks for a child with a sexually transmitted disease. A spokeswoman for Southwest Key did not return phone calls or an email seeking comment.

BCFS Health and Human Services

FacilityCityViolations in
past 3 years
Unaccompanied children
(As of 5/2018)
BCFS International Children’s ShelterHarlingen23464
BCFS HHS International Children’s ServicesBaytown1173
BCHM Region Children’s Assessment CenterSan Antonio19131
BCFS HHS International Children’s Services Emergency ShelterSan Antonio676
BCFS HHS International Children’s Services Emergency ShelterRaymondville248
Baptist Child and Home MinistriesSan Antonio121
Totals52913

BCFS Health and Human Services is the second-largest contractor operating in Texas. The group operates six facilities that may accept migrant children. It was founded in 1944, according to its website.

At a Harlingen facility owned by BCFS, employees were alleged to have struck up “inappropriate relationships” with children in their care. Children complained of raw and undercooked food, and one child in late 2016 suffered an allergic reaction after a staff member gave the child a snack.

At another BCFS facility in San Antonio, a staff member last April helped arrange for a child’s family member to send money for the child — but when the cash arrived, the staff member kept it. The year before, an employee gave children “inappropriate magazine pages” that depicted naked women, while a few months before, staff members were found to have failed to supervise their wards closely enough to prevent one child from “inappropriately” touching two others.

Reached by phone, a receptionist for BCFS Health and Human Services said she had been told to direct reporters’ questions to federal officials at the Administration for Children and Families.

Upbring

FacilityCityViolations in
past 3 years
Unaccompanied children
(As of 5/2018)
Bokenkamp (Lutheran Social Services)Corpus Christi25104
Lutheran Social Services of the South (New Hope)McAllen1256
Totals37160

Upbring operates two facilities that accept unaccompanied minors and children separated from their parents by immigration authorities. The company was previously known as Lutheran Social Services of the South. It rebranded itself after implementing better protocols following the 2013 death of a 1-year-old girl at one of its foster homes.

Five other groups are licensed to operate child care facilities for unaccompanied minors in Texas, though they receive comparatively little federal funding to do so. Those groups are Catholic Charities, St. Peter. St. Joseph Children’s Home, Shiloh Treatment Center, Seton Home and The Children’s Center.

Catholic Charities

FacilityCityViolations in
past 3 years
Unaccompanied children
(As of 5/2018)
St. Michaels Home for ChildrenHouston428
St. Michaels Home for Children IIHouston514
Assessment Center of Tarrant CountyFort Worth48
Totals1350

Catholic Charities, which has worked with the federal government to resettle refugees since at least 1983, operates three shelters for unaccompanied children through its branch at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

St. Peter St. Joseph Children’s Home

FacilityCityViolations in
past 3 years
Unaccompanied children
(As of 5/2018)
St. Peter – St. Joseph Children’s Home Emergency ShelterSan Antonio1765

St. Peter St. Joseph Children’s Home, which began as an orphanage in 1891, according to its website, operates an emergency shelter in San Antonio with a contract to house unaccompanied migrant children.

Shiloh Treatment Center Inc.

FacilityCityViolations in
past 3 years
Unaccompanied children
(As of 5/2018)
Shiloh Treatment CenterManvel820

The Shiloh Treatment Center was first incorporated in 1995, according to the Houston Chronicle. It first began receiving federal funding to house migrant children in 2013. It has been dogged by allegations of abuse following the 2001 death of Stephanie Duffield, 16, at the center after she was restrained by staff, but the center has been found to be in compliance with state requirements. Shiloh did not respond to a request for comment.

Seton Home

FacilityCityViolations in
past 3 years
Unaccompanied children
(As of 5/2018)
Seton HomeSan Antonio1831

Seton Home, which opened in 1981, according to its website, operates a facility in San Antonio.

The Children’s Center Inc.

FacilityCityViolations in
past 3 years
Unaccompanied children
(As of 5/2018)
Galveston Multicultural InstituteGalveston60
Brazoria County Youth HomesOyster Creek50
Totals110

The Children’s Center, based in Galveston, does not currently accept federal funds to care for unaccompanied minors, but it is licensed to serve up to 72 children, according to state regulators.

Edgar Walters is an investigative reporter for The Texas Tribune, where he started as an intern in 2013. He previously covered health and human services for the Tribune. Before that, he had a political reporting fellowship with the Berliner Zeitung, a daily newspaper in Berlin. He is a graduate of the Plan II Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin, where he worked as an editor for The Daily Texan. When not in the newsroom or at the Capitol, he can be found on the volleyball court, standing 6'7" tall.

Ryan Murphy creates graphics, interactive stories and data-driven features, wrangles difficult datasets and works on tools to make development for the team more efficient. He also oversees the design and maintenance of our large-scale explorers.

Darla Cameron is a senior designer and developer on the Tribune's data visuals team. She joined the Tribune after five years at The Washington Post, where she used data to tell stories about politics, policy and the economy. Prior to the Post, Darla worked in Florida at the Tampa Bay Times and completed a fellowship at the Poynter Institute. Darla's a Colorado native with a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.