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Md. To Update Efforts To Help Immigrant Children

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Ritter Rick 370x278 (3) Rick Ritter
Rick Ritter joined WJZ Eyewitness News in May 2014 as ...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — More than 2,000 immigrant children. That’s how many state leaders say are right here in Maryland after fleeing from violence in Central America. Tuesday, the O’Malley/Brown administration talked about the steps they’re taking in supporting the federal government’s efforts to help children.

Rick Ritter has the details.

Tuesday marks the deadline for groups to apply for federal grants to house immigrant children but the O’Malley/Brown administration says they want to do everything they can to keep children in smaller groups and place them with relatives.

After meeting for hours Tuesday, state leaders say they have a better handle on Maryland’s immigration crisis and what steps they’re taking to meet the needs of hundreds of children fleeing from violence.

“It’s a challenge for us to really appreciate what those needs are and what it’s like to be one of those kids,” said Anne Sheridan, director of the Governor’s Office for Children.

Since January, roughly 30,000 kids nationwide came to the US illegally. Ninety-two percent are primarily from three countries: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—and more than 2,000 children are already here in Maryland.

“That’s about seven percent of all kids nationwide,” said Ted Dallas, Maryland Department of Human Resources.

State leaders met with the legal community, working on ways to help children through court proceedings.

“As more and more kids are getting their day in court, we make it move as quickly as possible,” Dallas said.

In addition, Tuesday marks the deadline for groups to apply for federal grants to house immigrant children.

Catholic Charities made it known the federal government contracted with them to place 50 children at St. Vincent’s Villa, a residential treatment center in Baltimore County.

“Catholic Charities are responding to the humanitarian crisis,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director William McCarthy, Jr.

As for other possible locations, state leaders are staying tight-lipped.

Just weeks ago, Governor Martin O’Malley told WJZ he supported placing kids in homes with relatives. In Annapolis Tuesday, state leaders said his views aren’t changing anytime soon.

“Of the 2,200 kids that are here, almost everyone has been placed with a family member,” Dallas said.

State leaders say reports show the number of children arriving each day is going down but they’re still expecting another 30,000 to make it into the US by the end of the year.

“Maryland will certainly get their share of those children,” Dallas said. “I’m extremely happy with the progress being made but there’s no doubt we have a lot of work to do.”

State leaders say one other concern is the school year approaching. They’re working with local officials to make sure schools can absorb any immigrant children that attend.

WJZ tried reaching out to the federal government to find out what groups applied for federal grants to house children but never heard back.

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