Bill Would Require More Vetting Of Southwest Key Workers

We're looking to provide an additional layer of safety to these programs to work with migrant children.

A nonprofit that houses unaccompanied migrant children in Arizona says it supports a proposed law that would require more vetting of employees.

A former worker for Southwest Key Programs was convicted of sex crimes against kids last year, and another was arrested on suspicion of them. Then the organization ran afoul of state regulators when it didn’t give timely proof that workers passed background checks.

Senate Bill 1247 would require Southwest Key, and other groups that work with children, to ask the Arizona Department of Child Safety to check its own records for any red flags in a worker, or prospective worker’s background with kids.

The proposed bill is a good start, said Jana Lynn Granillo, an activist with the Uncage and Reunite Families Coalition, which has demanded more openness about the care of unaccompanied kids.

“I think the bill looks good to help provide an additional layer of safety for all those residential care facilities that have children,” she said.

The Uncage and Reunite Families Coalition is still pushing for a commission, which would include members from the community, to help oversee organizations that house migrant children, Granillo said.

Southwest Key spokesperson Jeff Eller emailed a statement.

“Senator (Kate) Brophy McGee’s proposed legislation increases transparency, accountability and protects children,” the statement said. “We support this bill and believe it’s a positive step forward.”

Brophy McGee did not respond to a request for an interview made through her office.