For Selim Isimer’s next birthday, his parent — the state of Florida — plans to kick him out of the house.
Being shown the door on your 18th birthday would prove daunting for any foster kid. Twenty percent end up homeless without public assistance.
For Selim, it would be disastrous: He has autism and mental retardation.
He can’t read or write, and speaks like a preschooler.
For about a year, Selim has been raised by the Department of Children & Families, which has spent $6,000 each month for his care at a North Miami group home for disabled children.
Child welfare administrators were hoping another state department, the Agency for Persons With Disabilities, would pay Selim’s bills when he ”aged out” of foster care.
But disability administrators say their hands are tied: Selim is in the United States illegally. And they cannot spend taxpayer dollars to pay for his care.
Time runs out for Selim on July 11, his 18th birthday.
"He could get picked up by immigration at any moment,” said Michelle Abarca, one of his attorneys at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.
In a March report, the advocacy group called healthcare at immigration lockups “poor and sometimes appalling.”
"Imagine explaining that to a child like him,” Abarca added.
“It’s very disturbing.”
Though the details of Selim’s case may be unusual, his plight is not.
Undocumented children — and the parents who bring them here — have become a common demographic in South Florida’s juvenile courts. So common, in fact, that child welfare administrators have contracted with immigration attorneys to work full time at the Miami Children’s Courthouse.
Administrators at DCF and Our Kids, which provides foster care services for the state in Miami, declined to discuss Selim’s case, citing confidentiality. Our Kids has been overseeing the boy’s case, and is paying his attorneys to represent the teen before immigration authorities.
DCF Secretary George Sheldon told The Miami Herald Thursday he planned to speak with his counterpart at APD, Jim DeBeaugrine, to find an alternative to rendering the teen homeless.
"Let me go out on a limb and say that will not happen,” Sheldon said. “This kid will not be without services on July 11.”
John Newton, APD’s general counsel, also declined to discuss Selim’s case, citing the confidentiality of agency records.
In general, Newton said, ”the agency has no discretion” under state law to spend tax dollars on migrants without legal residency.
JAIL OR PRISON
In cases involving disabled people with challenging behaviors, Newton said, the likelihood is they will wind up in jail or prison — and, ultimately, right back on APD’s doorstep.
"This is a sad situation,” Newton said.
“This sounds like an individual who will end up in the system one way or another — probably after a lot of misery in the criminal justice system. It’s a shame that services can’t be delivered sooner.”
About 6-foot-2, with dark hair and olive skin, Selim can be warm and affectionate one moment — but then explode in a temper tantrum the next. He has rudimentary math skills and has trouble writing or spelling his name. A source who knows the boy said he is moderately mentally retarded, and suffers from a severe emotional disturbance.
Selim’s parents brought him to Miami in August 2001 from Turkey, and overstayed their tourist visa. His father abandoned the family two years later, his immigration attorneys say.
In the spring of 2008, Selim’s mother took him to Miami Children’s Hospital for care — and then essentially left him there, said Aidil Oscariz, one of his attorneys.
The mother, Oscariz said, was overwhelmed by Selim’s medical needs and difficult behaviors.
At the end of April 2008, Selim was declared a dependent of the state and placed in foster care with Our Kids, the private, not-for-profit agency that last month renewed its $95 million annual contract with DCF. He now lives in a group home where he receives round-the-clock care, medication and therapy.
Selim’s attorneys say he has flourished at the group home, and, recently, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge George Sarduy signed an order saying the child’s ”best interests” would be served by granting him legal residency.
Attorneys at the advocacy center are asking an immigration judge to grant the youth legal resident status, but unless the petition is granted, Selim could be detained by immigration authorities — a risk that petrifies his attorneys and caregivers. He also could end up homeless.
"It would destroy him,” said the source familiar with the boy’s case. “It would, literally, be like putting a 2-year-old child in the middle of an intersection. He has no idea how to fend for himself. Whatever progress he’s made would completely crumble.”
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Aged-out foster child faces possible homelessness The Autism News
My Two Cents -
Are they fuckin kidding me?
This "special needs" child has been a sourse of income to the State of Florida via the Title IV Federal funding for how many years while they claim he's here illegally and now WHAT?
I guess Immigration doesn't get the same federal funding that child services gets!
What a disgrace!
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