Southwest Key Programs speaks out following criticism

A local nonprofit is speaking out about recent criticism regarding how they operate. Southwest Key Programs manages a shelter in Brownsville that houses children separated from their parents after crossing into the US illegally. 

Originally from San Antonio, the nonprofit is now based in Austin. They are in charge of dozens of shelters who house kids. Their Casa Padre shelter in Brownsville is now being questioned for how they operate.  

"We've been criticized a bit in Austin," said Jeff Eller a spokesperson to Southwest Key Programs. 

Eller met with FOX 7 to talk about the recent claims made against them.

"We play no role in detaining or separating families," said Eller.

One of the big criticisms right now is whether the nonprofit was taking advantage of president Donald Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy.

"We're doing today exactly what we've done under the last 3 administrations under a contract that was competitively let and a competitive price," said Eller.

Recently Southwest Key Programs was awarded a grant by the government to house these children.

"It's approximately $995 million for that three-year program so about $330 million a year for all 27 of our shelters," said Eller.

Eller said 85% of that goes towards the kids; meaning food, clothing, medicine and counseling. While the other 15% goes to maintaining the building where the kids are.

We asked what exactly happens to the kids who come to their shelters, specifically Casa Padre in Brownsville.

"We take phone numbers that they have for family members, we contact them, we work out arrangements for how the kids can leave us and be reunited with their families as soon as possible," said Eller.

Another big claim against them is how the children are treated once in their care.

"We run fully licensed 24 hours 7 day a week child care centers, we don't run detention centers and we don't have kids in cages," said Eller.

The kids who arrive at Casa Padre, according to Eller, are there anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks.

The Casa Padre shelter is almost at capacity. Eller said there are about 1,400 children there now, he also said nothing has changed when it comes to how they operate after President Trump's executive order to end the separation of families.