Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE -

Fed­eral fund­ing re­ceived in 2018 bud­get year so far: $204.5 mil­lion

South­west Key Pro­grams, the Austin­based pri­vate con­trac­tor op­er­at­ing a con­verted Wal­mart in Brownsville as a shel­ter for more than 1,500 chil­dren, is the largest op­er­a­tion in Texas au­tho­rized to take in chil­dren sep­a­rated from their par­ents. Founded in 1987, the non­profit says its mis­sion is to “pro­vide qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, safe shel­ter and al­ter­na­tives to in­car­cer­a­tion for thou­sands of youth each day.”

In­spec­tors found 246 vi­o­la­tions at the group’s 16 fa­cil­i­ties in the last three years, records show. On Oct. 11, 2017, at a South­west Key fa­cil­ity in San Ben­ito, an em­ployee ap­peared drunk when he showed up to work. A drug test later found the em­ployee was over the le­gal al­co­hol limit to drive. In­spec­tors also found sham­poo dis­pensers filled with hand san­i­tizer and bananas that had turned black. In two in­stances, chil­dren were made to wait be­fore re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal care: three days for a child with a bro­ken wrist, and two weeks for a child with a sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­ease.

A spokesman for South­west Key said the or­ga­ni­za­tion had worked to cor­rect the prob­lems iden­ti­fied by reg­u­la­tors. Of the list of vi­o­la­tions, spokesman Jeff Eller said: “While it’s not in­ac­cu­rate, it’s grossly un­fair to say that with­out ac­knowl­edg­ing that we ac­knowl­edged our mis­takes and made im­me­di­ate cor­rec­tions.”

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