SALISBURY TOWNSHIP BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
The announcement that KidsPeace Broadway Campus is to be a site for the housing of children caught at the Mexico border has caught Salisbury Township officials off-guard.
Township officials are looking into whether or not KidsPeace is permitted by law to undertake the project. Salisbury officials said they will speak with KidsPeace officials.
"KidsPeace, working with funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, will begin offering a safe haven for these youth until they can be placed in permanent homes," stated an April 24 press release from Bevin Theodore, KidsPeace director of public relations and communications.
At the April 25 township meeting, Salisbury Township Manager Randy Soriano, Police Chief Allen W. Stiles, Director of Planning and Zoning Cynthia Sopka and the five-member board of commissioners said they had not been informed of KidsPeace plans.
"I didn't know this was going to happen," Chief Stiles told officials in his report to the commissioners.
"It's kind of a surprise, so we're looking to talk to KidsPeace," Stiles said. "I think they should have told us, but they did not. I think it's unfortunate," Stiles continued.
"I didn't know about it," Sopka said.
KidsPeace Broadway campus children residences have been unoccupied since 2008 when youths were relocated to KidsPeace Orchard Hills Campus, Orefield, North Whitehall Township, where as many as 200 are housed.
KidsPeace is to receive a grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement to house the refugee children, who were allegedly caught at the Mexican border attempting to cross into the United States.
Soriano said Patrick Slattery of the KidsPeace Advancement Department left a voicemail for him at his township office phone number and he spoke with him the morning of April 25.
Township commissioner Vice President Robert Martucci, Jr. asked Soriano if a meeting was planned between the township administration and KidsPeace officials.
"Yes," Soriano replied.
Martucci, a township commissioner for the township's east side where KidsPeace Broadway Campus is located, said he'd like to attend the meeting.
"If you meet with Pat [Slattery], I'd like to be part of that meeting because I know I'll be getting phone calls," said Martucci.
It was hoped a meeting with township and KidsPeace officials could be held April 26.
"I guess the question is: Are they allowed to do that?" Soriano said at the April 25 township meeting.
"You're talking about kids who were caught. You're not talking about our kids yet," Soriano said.
"Do they have to come in here and get some sort of approval to have kids there?" Soriano asked.
"Are they still within the parameters of their zoning approvals?" Soriano explained to a reporter for Salisbury Press after the April 24 meeting.
"I'm doing the research within the township to find out what the approvals were and what this campus use is allowed to do," Sopka told the reporter after the meeting.
"KidsPeace expects an average length of stay to be 45 days, with the ultimate goal of moving the children toward reunification with relatives, or when that is not possible, returning them safely to their home countries," stated the press release.
"Services include shelter care for up to 72 unaccompanied children at one time; daily education that will include core subjects, English language education, art, music, health and physical education and citizenship; counseling from a bilingual master's level clinician; recreation; medical and mental health assessments; and ongoing medical, psychiatric and dental care as needed," according to the press release.
KidsPeace plans to hire as many as 60 to work with the youths.
"Hiring and training of about 60 bilingual associates is still under way, and the youth are not expected to hit the Broadway Campus for at least another week," stated the press release.
KidsPeace is offering information on available job openings at the careers section of its website, kidspeace.org
According to the press release, "It is estimated 20,000 children could require these services, a number that has grown 200 percent over the past three years."
The Office of Refugee Resettlement is an Office of the Administration for Children & Families in the United States Department of Health & Human Services.
According to the department's website, "Through its network of caretakers, the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program helps unaccompanied refugee minors develop appropriate skills to enter adulthood and to achieve social self-sufficiency."
A statement of goals on the department's website is dated Aug. 16, 2012.