A 10-year-old child was taken into custody on May 9 at the western border with neighboring Guatemala. The child was handed over to social services where he remains today. The Department of Human Services said the child was flagged since the adult, Guatemalan national could not prove that he was a relative of the boy. It’s been since a month since the border incident occurred and today we spoke to the CEO of the Ministry of Human Development, Judith Alpuche who says that the child is still in foster care as the case is being investigated.
Judith Alpuche CEO, Ministry of Human Development: “The case of the child at the border was one that was flagged to us by immigration and so as per the protocol that we have concerning unaccompanied minors, accompanied minors or children in general. We are trying to work in a tripartite manner to ensure protection for children. Immigration, police and human services often work on these cases. Immigration flagged this case to us, there were certain things in the interview when this Belizean child was crossing back accompanied by this Guatemalan adult that was not related to him. Certain things in that interview sent up flags for the immigration officer and so that matter was handed over to us. We are investigating to see what the issues are, you know these things take a bit of time but we are working along with other concerned persons. We are in contact with the mother and have good cooperation from her because that always helps in these matters so it is really under investigation. We have a interim care order from the court to keep the child and we are trying to work as expeditiously as possible to resolve the matter in the best interest of the child.”
Jose Sanchez: “At the present time is the child attending school, social services or a family?”
Judith Alpuche CEO, Ministry of Human Development: “The child is in foster care.”
Jose Sanchez: “Okay and what brought on the flag? Would it be that the mother is living in Placencia and then this foreigner allegedly taking the child for like a better education in Guatemala, was that what caused the flag?”
Judith Alpuche CEO, Ministry of Human Development: “I am not at liberty to talk about what sent up the flag because it is a matter that is under investigation but it did send up flags. It sent up flags for immigration and when we did the initial interview it sent up flags for us as well. It is a matter of trying to resolve these issues, trying to answer the questions that sent up the flags and ensure the safety of the child.”
At the time of the incident, the mother of the child had handed over her child to the man, but did not take any legal measures to make him a guardian. At the country’s borders, immigration officers are trained to detect suspicious behaviors or red flags and are obligated to report these cases to the Department of Human Development.