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Company behind proposed kids’ shelter still eyeing state license

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Arizona company’s plan to create an Albuquerque shelter for undocumented children is not dead yet.

The president and CEO of VisionQuest says his company will continue pursuing the project despite an initial failure to secure a license from New Mexico’s child welfare agency.

The state Children, Youth and Families Department in August denied VisionQuest’s license application to shelter up to 60 boys ages 11 to 17 who crossed the U.S. border without their parents and are now in federal custody.

CYFD alleged that the company – which operates in six other states and has faced allegations of mistreatment and abuse – intentionally provided incomplete and misleading information regarding its regulatory history in Pennsylvania. Officials there had in 2015 temporarily revoked the license for a VisionQuest residential facility. VisionQuest blamed a “misunderstanding” during the New Mexico application process and appealed the CYFD decision.

The parties held an “informal resolution conference” earlier this month. CYFD maintained its position but offered the company a chance to continue appealing by proceeding to an administrative hearing.

VisionQuest President and CEO Mark Contento wrote CYFD earlier this week to withdraw the company’s appeal but told the Journal the next day that he intended to file a new application for the same project.

The company has a $2.9 million federal grant to open a shelter in New Mexico but must have a state license to operate.

“The new application would be different in that it will attempt to incorporate changes more consistent with New Mexico’s philosophies on the provision of services to children in need,” Contento told the Journal in an email.

He said the company dropped its original appeal because it wanted to have “productive discussions” and it is “easier to speak cooperatively when the environment is not legally competitive.”

A CYFD spokesman said VisionQuest has not contacted the agency since it withdrew its appeal Tuesday.

“We’ll wait to see what their new application is, and we’ll take it at face value,” spokesman Charlie Moore-Pabst said.

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