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Fauquier homes sought for immigrant children

Friday, Aug. 15 | By Hannah Dellinger
Youth For Tomorrow quietly leased and licensed this house on Cliff Mills Road with the apparent purpose of housing children, only to back down when faced with Fauquier's zoning laws.
Photo by Adam Goings
Youth For Tomorrow, a faith-based organization that earlier this year began housing illegal immigrant children in Bristow, recently attempted to set up two similar homes in Fauquier County.

The organization acquired licenses for two children’s residential facilities — one on Cliff Mills Road in Marshall and the other on Green Road in Midland — from the Virginia Department of Social Services on July 18.

However, the county’s zoning regulations don’t allow for the kind of group homes that YFT was preparing to establish.

County Attorney Kevin Burke said that YFT contacted him a couple of weeks ago to ask about the county’s zoning laws.

“Because the group home provision of the code and county zoning ordinance is directed toward homes for the disabled and treatment facilities and that wasn’t what they were proposing, they would need to apply for a special permit,” said Burke.

According to Burke, once YFT learned that they would need to apply for a special permit, the organization decided not to move forward in Fauquier County.
When reached for comment, a YFT representative would only say, “All of our immigrant children remain on our campus.”

County Supervisor Lee Sherbeyn, who represents the Cedar Run District, said that YFT informed him of the organization’s intent to bring “unaccompanied alien children” to the Green Road home, which is within his district.

He said that they were interested in leasing the property, but he isn’t sure if they already signed the lease.

“If what they were telling me is true, I don’t think that it would hurt us at all,” he said. “I’m very familiar with what they’re doing and I think they’re doing a great job.”

Sherbeyn said that YFT told him that they were going to house children ages 6 to 11 in Midland until they could be reunited with their families in their countries of origin.
According to Sherbeyn, YFT wanted to bring the children to Fauquier County quietly for the safety and security of the children.

He said that representatives of the organization told him that they informed the neighbors living near the Green Road home that they were planning to set up a children’s residential facility.

“They said that they had no objections from the neighbors,” said Sherbeyn. “Some thought it was the Christian thing do.”

Sherbeyn said that YFT told him a couple of weeks ago that they were no longer coming to the county, and didn’t explain why.

County Supervisor Peter Schwartz, who represents the Scott district where the Cliff Mills Road home is located, said that YFT sent emails to set up meetings with all of the supervisors and that the meetings were all canceled about two weeks ago.

William Burress, a neighbor of Cliff Mills Road home, said he was completely unaware that YFT was looking to house the children in his neighborhood.

“I prefer that they didn’t bring them here,” he said. “This is a residential area and we don’t really need illegal aliens in our community.”

Another neighbor of the Cliff Mills Road property, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the owner of the house made mention of YFT leasing his property. The neighbor said that he hadn’t seen any activity there lately.

Both houses are three-story structures with several bedrooms, large kitchens, living rooms, and basements. Both are situated on well-landscaped parcels.

According to YFT’s website, the organization is geared towards at-risk youth and has provided housing, education and counseling for more than 1,000 young people since 1986.

YFT received $6.9 million from the National Child Trauma Stress Initiative.

In a departure from its traditional mission, YFT, during the 2014 fiscal year, received nearly $8.5 million in funding from the federal government’s Residential Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children fund.

They received no funding from NCTSI this year.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended 62,998 “unaccompanied alien children” between New Year's Day and July 31.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, as of July 7, more than 30,000 “unaccompanied alien children” await homes. Of those, 2,234 found their way to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The YFT homes in Fauquier County would have housed eight children each, plus caretakers.

Although YFT says that it provides teachers and education to their residents, many public school systems across the nation are preparing to take in an influx of immigrants.

Assistant Superintendent for Student and Special Education Services for Fauquier County Public Schools Frank Finn said that the Virginia Department of Education released a document on Monday advising public schools how to handle the enrollment of immigrants.

“We just found out that we have to treat these children as we do under the McKinney-Vento Act,” said Finn.

That means that public schools in Virginia must immediately enroll the “unaccompanied alien children” into the school systems without any documentation.
“This is going to put a real burden on school divisions to accommodate these children,” said Finn.

By the numbers

$8.1 million: federal funding granted to Youth For Tomorrow from the National Child Trauma Stress Initiative

$8.5 million: federal funding granted to Youth For Tomorrow from Residential Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children fund

$1.05 million: combined fair market value of properties leased in Fauquier County for the use of Youth For Tomorrow

2,234: “unaccompanied alien children” housed in the Commonwealth of Virginia

The homes

Youth For Tomorrow leased two Fauquier County properties for its use: one in Midland, one near Marshall, both examples of rural comfort.

The four-bedroom stucco house on Cliff Mills Road stands two stories tall, its back porch overlooking seven acres of trees and manicured grass. Fauquier County lists its market value at $611,600.

The brown brick house on Green Road sits on five acres, valued at $443,200.

Both neighborhoods are quiet, well removed from the rush of main-artery traffic. Both appear ready for children.

Ping pong and foosball tables can be seen in the basement levels of both houses. A framed fire escape plan hangs on a wall in the Cliff Mills Road home. Upstairs, Youth For Tomorrow sign-in books rest on a table in the foyer.

Several child-sized beds, covered with bright comforters, wait in the silent bedrooms.

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