Arizona is moving closer to revoking the licenses of 13 shelters for migrant children operated by Southwest Key in the state, citing the company’s failure to show proof of fingerprinting and background checks.
In a letter Wednesday, the Arizona Department of Health Services notified migrant-children shelter operator Southwest Key that it would start procedures to revoke the licenses of 13 of its facilities in the state.
The notices give Southwest Key 30 days to appeal.
Southwest Key has been named in a series of abuse allegations involving the vast government network of shelters for young migrants.
The Arizona Department of Health Services said Southwest Key failed to provide it with reassurance that it conducts background checks on employees to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults.
“Southwest Key’s lack of ability to deliver a simple report on the critical protections these children have against dangerous felons demonstrate an utter disregard for Arizona law, the mutual agreement with the department and calls into question the privilege you enjoy operating a health care institution in the state of Arizona,” the letter said.
In a response, Southwest Key said it’s committed to providing the necessary confirmation and has requested a meeting with key health officials.
“We have apologized to DHS for missing the reporting deadline and are serious about ensuring that never happens again,” it said in a statement.
Southwest Key has faced a series of scandals linked to its facilities that house immigrant children.
Last week, a former youth care worker accused of molesting teenage boys was convicted of seven counts of abusive sexual contact and three counts of sexual abuse, and will be sentenced December 3.
The abuse occurred between August 2016 and July 2017 at Southwest Key’s Casa Kokopelli facility in Mesa, court records show. It was part of the US government’s network of privately run facilities intended to care for unaccompanied minors, according to court documents.
Pacheco began working there in May 2016.
In early August, the Southwest Key facility in Phoenix saw one of its employees arrested on suspicion of molesting a 14-year-old girl at the center. The girl and two of her roommates accused the employee of kissing her at the Phoenix facility in June, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by CNN affiliate KTVK.
One of the roommates also alleged the employee inappropriately touched the girl, the affidavit said.
Last month, ProPublica reported that police had responded to at least 125 calls in the past five years alleging sex offenses at shelters that house immigrant children.