Media Inquires

Sheltering, Caring and Reunifying

For more than 20 years, Southwest Key has been an integral partner in the U.S. response to the immigration crisis at our southern border, sheltering immigrant children under 18 years of age who arrive in this country without a parent or guardian, and works to reunify them with a parent, relative or a sponsor.

The majority of those in our care are 13-17 year olds from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who’ve come here on their own, escaping dangerous conditions in their homeland. During the short period of time they are with us, we work to share the building blocks for their future success.

Southwest Key shelters


United States Border Patrol Southwest Border Apprehensions of Unaccompanied Minors (FY2012 – FY2019)

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By The Numbers chart

Unaccompanied Minor Shelters

Southwest Key’s unaccompanied minor shelters are part of a federal shelter system that was created as a result of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement.

The agreement mandates the prompt release of immigrant minors from Border Patrol custody, within 72 hours. They are then transferred into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Our programs are funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are so many children coming to the U.S.?

Based on our experience, their basic human needs are not being met at home: food, water, shelter, safety, warmth. Some come to escape extreme violence and gang threats in their home countries; some are trafficked into the country. Some come to work, others to escape physical abuse and desperate poverty.

How many children do you care for?

In FY2018, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) served 49,100 unaccompanied minors.

On average, how long does a child stay at SWK?

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reports the average length of stay for unaccompanied minors in FY2018 across all shelter providers was 60 days.

Where does Southwest Key have shelters?

Southwest Key operates 17 shelters in Texas, 8 in Arizona and 3 in California.

Intake & Reunification Process

Children begin receiving services immediately upon entering our facilities. Within 24 hours of arrival, our case managers begin working on reunification. This process begins with attempting to contact the child’s family in his or her home country and then reaching out to contacts and prospective sponsors in the U.S.  All potential sponsors are thoroughly screened, and children have opportunities to connect and build relationships before reunification.

Within 48 hours of arrival, all minors receive a medical exam by a licensed medical provider. They are screened for infectious diseases and receive immunizations as needed. Those who require examinations from specialists or hospital care are transported to the appropriate medical facilities.

Shelter Care

In addition to reunification, medical and counseling services, children also have access to legal services, religious services, phone calls, mail supplies, postage and are provided personal grooming and hygiene services, such as haircuts, laundry and housekeeping.

Our programs are developed to provide children the necessary resources to thrive in a safe, nurturing environment while in our care. We follow USDA guidelines and our in-house cooks provide nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day.

Education is vitally important, so we provide 6 hours of classroom education five days a week. In addition to mental stimulation, we understand how valuable recreation and physical activity is to all children, so they’re given ample time to be outside and play. When possible, we provide opportunities for arts and crafts, music and entertainment and field trips.

All children receive full medical examinations within 48 hours of entering our facilities. They are also screened for any infectious diseases and receive all CDC-recommended immunizations.

Southwest Key medical staff provide basic medical care 24 hours a day. Children who require examinations by specialists or hospital care are transported by Southwest Key to the appropriate medical facilities.