A child, the age of 2, caught the attention of a prominent pediatrician. She was checking on the children in a small shelter along the Texas border. She caught her attention because the little girl was unhappy and there was nothing that would soothe her torment.
The toddler room was supplied with toys and books, but Colleen Kraft, in her frustration, could not comfort this child. All the doctor wanted to do was console the little girl, but she was not allowed to touch her, hold her, or pick her up. How can a 2-year-old, who has been taken from her mother, believe that everything is going to be okay, if she cannot feel okay? Children need to be touched, held, and picked up, that is how they feel comfort. The shelter workers are not allowed to touch the children.
The really devastating thing was that we all knew what was going on with this child. We knew what the problem was. She didn’t have her mother, and none of us can fix that.
The night before, the little girl has been taken from her mother and brought to the shelter that had been redecorated for children under the age of 12, according to Kraft.
This little girl was among a multitude of children who had been separated from their parents. This is part of Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. This means that any adult who crosses the border illegally will face criminal prosecution. Parents are taken to federal jails and children are taken to immigrant shelters – cages.
Almost 2,000 immigrant children have been taken from their parents in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Colleen Kraft is president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She stated that colleagues, who were alarmed by the border shelter for children, invited her to visit the area and experience the horror for herself. The shelter is run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
She said, the country and the world needed to know what was happening. Kraft could see immediately that the shelter workers were doing what they could to make sure the needs of the children were being met. The children were fed, they had beds, toys, a playground, and people to change diapers. But workers are limited. The workers cannot touch the children and they cannot retrieve their parents for them.
The most basic needs of the children are not being met. They cannot trust the adults that take care of them, which contradicts everything that kids need to build up their health.
This situation can have long-term, devastating effects on these young children. They are likely to develop toxic stress in their brain once they are separated from the loving caregivers they trusted. This action will disrupt a child’s brain development and increase the fight-or-flight hormones. According to Kraft, “This kind of emotional trauma could eventually lead to health problems, such as heart disease and substance abuse disorders.”
Kraft and her colleagues are not alone in their opinion.
Not all the children being ripped away from their parents will suffer the full consequences of toxic stress, but many will, according to Megan Gunnar of the University of Minnesota. The age of the child matters. Children under the age of 10 are of the deepest concern.
Those under 5 should get us all running around with our hair on fire to get this practice stopped.
Almost 4,600 mental-health professionals and 90 organizations have signed the petition urging elected officials to stop separating children from their parents.
As of June 14, 2018, there are 11,432 immigrant children in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. In May the count was 9,000.
The shelters are full. The Trump administration is talking about expanding these shelters to tents in the desert. Children, who are in a strange land. Children, who need their loving, trusting caregivers are being placed in cages, tents, and shelters and treated as criminals without love and human touch. Is this how Trump plans to make America great again?
By Jeanette Smith
The Washington Post: ‘America is better than this’: What a doctor saw in a Texas shelter for migrant children
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