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Montgomery County Officials Struggle With Scope Of Unaccompanied Children Crisis

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Authorities in Montgomery County are trying to wrap their heads around the unaccompanied Central American children crisis and the impact it will have in the county. There are many unknowns, including what level of schooling, trauma medical care and social services these children and even their parents will need.

About 2,200 undocumented Central American children were processed by immigration and turned over to sponsors in Maryland. Exactly how many are in Montgomery County is not clear, because the feds don't provide numbers at that level. And it's not clear how many children have managed to evade authorities altogether.

"Sooner or later we are going to experience a very complex situation, one that we are not prepared to grapple with," says Council Nancy Navarro, who convened the briefings by officials from county agencies.

"There is definitely a need for additional support and resources," reiterated Uma Ahluwalia, director of the county department of health and human services.

County officials have to read the tea leaves provided by the school system to guesstimate how many Central American children are here. And it's harder to determine how many will come, because the flow hasn't stopped.

The numbers we do know: by the end of the school year there were 107 unaccompanied Central American children enrolled in Montgomery County public schools. This July, an additional 123 enrolled in summer school.

The D.C. Council of Governments will hold similar meetings on the issue to see how local jurisdictions and the states can coordinate efforts to help vulnerable children and perhaps get the federal government to foot some of the bills that local authorities will face.

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