4 Months of ‘Basic Shelter Care’ Was 2 Times the Cost of a Full Year at Sidwell Friends

By Barbara Hollingsworth | December 9, 2014 | 2:23pm EST

Shelter that housed 1,200 unaccompanied minors at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) contractor spent $86,846.34 to provide “basic shelter care” for each unaccompanied minor aged 12 to 17 who illegally crossed the southern border and was housed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma earlier this year, according to documents released to Judicial Watch under a Freedom of Information Act request.

That sum is more than twice the cost of tuition and fees for an entire year at Sidwell Friends, the exclusive private school in northwest Washington, D.C. that Sasha and Malia Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s grandchildren attend.

Tuition at Sidwell Friends is $36,264 per year for middle and upper school students, which includes a hot lunch each day. Adding up all the additional fees the school charges for textbooks, laptops, transportation and optional after school care, the total cost of attendance for one year comes to $41,014 – or less than half of what HHS spent to house one unaccompanied minor on the Oklahoma military base from June 12 to October 18.

“The Obama administration paid Baptist Children and Family Services (BCFS) $182,129,786 to provide ‘basic shelter care’ to 2,400 ‘unaccompanied alien children’ for four months in 2014,” according to Judicial Watch. Half were sent to Fort Sill, while the other half went to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

BCFS spent $64,928 per child to care for the 1,200 unaccompanied children (UAC) it housed at Lackland between May 18 and September 18, according to the HHS documents. That amount would cover a year and a half of tuition and fees at the posh Sidwell Friends, which has a state-of-the-art athletics building, a professionally-equipped theater and its own art gallery.

Girls play lacrosse at Sidwell Friends, an exclusive private school in Washington, D.C. (Sidwell Friends)

“This UACs (sic) will reside in a barrack dormitory setting with separate floors and wings designated for males and females as well as for younger and older UACs,” according to a summary of the contract obtained by Judicial Watch. “In addition to basic needs being provided, medical, case management, mental health, recreation and educational services will be located onsite to promote their physical and emotional well-being.”

Taxpayers were billed for beds, shower stalls, medical care, clothing, laptops, big screen TVs, a $75 per diem per child for three catered meals and two snacks, cell phone kits for twice-a-week international calls, sports equipment, and art supplies including “multicultural crayons”, according to the documents.

“It is outrageous that the Obama administration spent nearly $200 million of taxpayer funds to provide illegal alien children with the types of extravagant high-tech equipment and lavish benefits many American families cannot even afford for their own children,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said in a statement. “And very few American workers are bringing home the $80,000 the Obama administration pays the BCFS’s Incident Management Team for just four months’ work.”

The contract also provided more than $8.4 million for travel expenses to relocate unaccompanied minors elsewhere in the U.S. or escort them to meet family members already here, in addition to salaries and benefits for dozens of staff members, including program directors, case managers, teachers, nurses and custodial staff.

Christopher Farrell, the director of investigations and research at Judicial Watch, emphasized that all of the figures his group cites came directly from the federal government.

“The beauty of what we do is that this isn’t our opinion or our guesswork. These are records and documents produced to us by the government,” Farrell noted. “And so we asked Health and Human Services for these contract documents, and then this is their answer back to us.

“When you look at all these expenses and all these expenditures over time, it’s really breathtaking,” he told CNSNews.com. “And some of the stuff seems to be very necessary. Obviously, medical-type things I think are sort of non-negotiable. There’s an objective need to take care of these kids, whether it’s first aid kits or lice shampoo or whatever other necessary things. I don’t think anyone would argue with that necessarily.

“But some of the recreational stuff and some of the things like laptops for kids, that certainly seems extravagant. It seems out of touch with what the average American wants to see their tax dollars go to.”

CNSNews.com asked Farrell whether the $182 million HHS contract contained any obvious padding. He replied that it reminded him of the Pentagon’s penchant for inflating defense expenditures.

“We did one example of sort of drilling down on the numbers,” he said. “And that is when it came to shower stalls, they wanted to make sure that there was sufficient shower space for the kids who were being taken care of. So they priced out 20 shower stalls at basically $1,000 a pop. And that’s probably ten times the actual cost.

“Our researcher did a quick Home Depot check. Instead of $1,000 a piece, he was able to price out Home Depot shower stalls at about $160, $170 apiece. So even with installation, and man-hour work charge, it doesn’t get to $1,000. Not by anyone’s calculation. So this is the humanitarian version of the $500 Air Force hammer.”

CNSNews.com called and emailed BCFS executive director Sonya Thompson in San Antonio, asking her: “Could you please explain why it cost more than twice as much to provide a child with ‘basic shelter care’ on a military installation for four months than it does to send that same child to an expensive private school like Sidwell Friends for an entire year?” Thompson did not respond.

CNSNews.com also asked Kenneth Wolfe at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families’ public affairs office the same question.

"A total of 4,375 children were housed at Lackland Air Force Base, and 1,861 at Fort Sill, during the emergency operation of the Unaccompanied Alien Children program spanning May 18, 2014 to August 10, 2014. The maximum occupancy at each location was 1,200 children, but as one child was released, another came in to take his place until the facility ceased operations," Wolfe told CNSNews.com in an email.

"In addition to food, showers and basic shelter, our Office of Refugee Resettlement is required by law to provide recreational activities, access to phones to contact attorneys and family members, medical assistance and educational services to minors in the Unaccompanied Alien Children program.

"It is important to note that not all funds awarded to a grantee are necessarily drawn – it depends on the incoming caseload," Wolfe added.

BCFS is the same non-profit, faith-based group that scuttled plans to house illegal alien minors at the Palm Aire Hotel and Suites, a resort hotel in Texas it planned to purchase, soon after a firestorm of criticism erupted when the story was published on the Drudge Report.

According to the Tracking Accountability n Government Grants System (TAGGS), BCFS has received $466.3 million in government grants since 1999.

The tax-exempt charitable organization reported $31.6 million in net assets on its 2012 Internal Revenue Service Form 990 return. CEO Kevin Dinnin received $447,800 in compensation and at least four other BCFS officials were paid more than $200,000 each.

The group’s current contract with HHS, which was signed in June, extends to Sept. 30, 2016, said Farrell, who is also a board member at Judicial Watch.

“I guess there’s been some effort to say well, they haven’t spent all [of the $182 million],” he noted. “Well, I would hope not, because they have to make the make the money last until September of 2016, so I wouldn’t anticipate that they would have spent everything. But those are the monies committed to what they are going to spend, and I’m willing to bet you that they spend every penny of it right up until Sept. 30th of 2016.

“That’s also the end of the fiscal year, and I would anticipate that when the new FY rolls around, many of these kids will still be in need of some kind of services. And our belief is that there will be more kids on their heels, coming right behind them,” Farrell told CNSNews.com.

“And I have some degree of confidence that Baptist Children and Family Services will come back to the government and say, ‘Look, there’s more kids, and we’re here, and we’re ready to keep doing what we’ve been doing’,” he added. “So I don’t anticipate any of it will really go away. At best, it will morph in some way.”

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