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Police say undocumented immigrant pretended to be 17, was given to foster family

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Many times foster parents don't know a lot about the child coming into their care.

But for one foster family, it took about 20 days before anyone realized they were caring for a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant.

The man claimed that he was 17-years-old

According to this 13-page police report, Indiana State Police pulled over a van on the Toll Road about 3 weeks ago.

The report says there were several undocumented immigrants, including one man who convinced law enforcement that he was 17.

For the last 20 days, 22-year-old Javier Santiago Flores was living with an Indiana foster family.

He was placed into the care of Indiana Deprtment of Child Services after convincing law enforcement he was 17.

Foster parent and advocate Kristi Cundiff says there is a process DCS goes through when placing a child.

“It varies county by county,” said Cundiff. “They do an intake. They try to get as much information from the biological family as they possibly can. They will try to get a physical done on the child as soon as possible so they can get to a doctor and then they conduct a CAN score, which is a children's health care mental assessment.”

According to police reports, Michigan City's DCS called city police Thursday asking for help with a case.

Because Santiago did not speak English, a city police officer helped translate.

That's when Santiago confirmed he was 22.

Cundiff says she's currently working with Indiana law makers to fix holes like this in the foster system.

She wonders if the process was followed according to DCS policy.

“Obviously if you have someone that looks relatively older then maybe you can run a background check on that person or put their name through the system to see if they could find anything,” said Cundiff.

Cundiff says this is a unique case.

She hopes DCS will take this as a learning experience to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Cundiff believes Indiana should look to California's foster system to make sure DCS knows who is going into foster care.

“They get their mental health care evaluation right then. So you have a multiple disciplinary team looking at that kiddo from the very beginning.”

WSBT 22 did reach out to the Indiana State Department of Child Services.

A representative says they're legally not allowed to comment on DCS cases involving personal information.

Santiago told police he lied about his age so he could get a job and send money back to family in Mexico.

He was transported to LaPorte County Jail yesterday.

ICE now has him in custody and plans to deport him to Mexico.

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