YOUNGTOWN, Ariz. – Southwest Key Programs, Inc. said Friday, it welcomed the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s decision to suspend operations at Hacienda Del Sol.
In an email to 12 news, spokesperson for the nonprofit, Jeff Eller, said the location “housed immigrant children after they were detained at the border.”
In a statement, Eller wrote, operations here were suspended because of an “unspecified incident.”
Below are the statement from Eller and additional questions he answered in an email to 12 News:
We hear the Southwest Key Program Casa Hacienda del Sol located at 12030 N. 113th Ave. in Youngtown Arizona has closed. If so, when?
A: See statement enclosed.
What was the purpose of this location? Did it house migrant children and how many? What age ranges?
A: It housed immigrant children after they were detained at the border.
We hear this closure was due to an incident during which local law enforcement were called. Can you please confirm this? Is it permanently closed?
A: See statement. Law enforcement, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and Arizona Department of Health Services were notified.
What happened that led to the closure and when did the incident happen? Where did the staff and students housed there go?
A: We are only saying it was an unspecified incident. Staff and children were relocated to other shelters in the Phoenix region.
Statement from Jeff Eller:
(Austin) – “We wholeheartedly welcomed the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s decision to
suspend operations at Hacienda Del Sol and are working to thoroughly retrain our staff. We are
simultaneously engaging the Child Welfare Consulting Partnership to do an independent, top-to-bottom review of our processes, procedures, hiring and training in our Arizona shelters.”
About an hour after receiving this statement, 12 News was outside the facility and saw dozens of people leaving Hacienda del Sol, then a few showing up throughout the afternoon and evening. There was no obvious sign of children.
12 News tried to speak with people as they left, but only one man addressed us to say, “I can’t answer any questions.”
Eller wrote, “we are working to thoroughly retrain our staff,” but there was no clear answer if that is what these people were doing Friday.
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) is in charge of licensing these facilities.
In a statement, the state agency said in mid-September, it got a report from Hacienda Del Sol which led to an ADHS investigation and on-site inspection.
Below is the statement from ADHS in its entirety:
Since August, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has required Southwest Key facilities to do additional self-reporting of any "actual or alleged event or situation that creates a significant risk of substantial or serious harm to the physical or mental health, safety, or well-being of a resident." In mid-September, the Department did receive a report from Hacienda del Sol in Youngtown that initiated an ADHS investigation and on-site inspection. As of today, the facility has a valid state license. ADHS cannot comment further about this ongoing investigation.
Staff with the office of Gov. Doug Ducey told 12 News they were monitoring this investigation closely and will, “make sure ADHS is doing everything within its jurisdiction to ensure the safe treatment of children.”
12 News reached out to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the department overseeing the ORR, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but was still waiting for answers from both agencies Friday night.
Eller told 12 News local law enforcement was notified of the “unspecified incident.” Youngtown is under the jurisdiction of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. 12 News requested records from the sheriff’s office Friday. On average, it may take the agency four to eight weeks or longer to process a public records request.