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Sunday Reflections: Where are the children?

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When she was two, The Teen and I were shopping at Sears when Things 2 suddenly disappeared. In a panic, I began running around the store calling for her. Each moment that she was missing the intensity of my panic increased. I ran. I screamed. I shouted. I searched.

Soon, recognizing my distress, others joined in on the search. The store itself was just about to shut it all down and call a Code Adam when we found Thing 2 hiding in one of the clothing racks.

I’ve thought about this story a lot in the past couple of days as news came out that our government had lost almost 1,500 children. I thought about this story as I read about how ICE agents were separating children from their parents as they crossed the border into our country seeking asylum. I thought about the panic that I felt. I thought about the fear. I thought about the growing anguish. Please note, although both of these reports are about issues relating to immigrant children, they are separate news stories. It should also be noted that not all of this has just recently started happening, some of the reports go back to 2015 and 2016.

As ICE separates children from parents at the border, public outrage grows

I think, too, of a friend of mine that just lost their adult son in their twenties. I think about the incredible grief that they are experiencing. About the ways that their lives have shut down. About the ways their life will never be the same.

US lost track of 1,500 undocumented children

I think about the long term effects of childhood trauma. Of all the teens that come and visit us in the Teen MakerSpace and just the ways that divorce or having a parent incarcerated has and will continue to effect them.

Trump on Abused Immigrant Children: “They’re Not Innocent”

And I think of what it must be like to be a parent trying to bring your children to a safer country. To a country where you hope that you can escape violence or dream of a future where your child can get an education, a job, a house with a wife and two cars and a garage. But when you arrive there, strangers rip your child from your arms. They place your children in cages that resemble dog kennels at the dog pound. And then they lose them.

Abusive Conditions for Women and Children in US Immigration

Reports have said that some of these children are being trafficked.

U.S. Placed Immigrant Children With Traffickers, Report Says

Other reports say that some of these children are being sexually assaulted.

ACLU Report: Detained Immigrant Children Subjected To Widespread Abuse by Border AGents

All of these children are being traumatized.

The Federal Government Lost 1,475 Immigrant Children | Teen Vogue

Whatever is happening, all of these children are being traumatized. I said it twice because it’s really important that we understand what we are doing to a generation of children.

Childhood Trauma : Long-Term Effects and Symptoms

This is not the first time in our country’s history that this has happened. During slavery, children were ripped from the arms of their parents and sold off as property. Native American children were taken from their parents on reservations and placed into boarding schools to “tame” them. Japanese Americans and their children were placed in concentration camps during World War II.

No, the idea that we can be cruel to children is not a new one to our nation, and yet I find myself stunned at the recent news. I routinely read about bias and how even as young as kindergarten and preschool our nation’s children who happen to be anything other than white can be singled out, disproportionately punished, called on to participate less frequently and more. I don’t want to romanticize how our country treats its children. I don’t want to act shocked or stunned that this is happening. History has shown us who we are and what we are capable of doing.

And yet, there is something about this story that takes us to a place that I can not fathom. I can not fathom as a mother or a Christian or as a compassionate human being how anyone can rationalize ripping a crying child from the arms of a screaming parent, placing them into a cage, and then . . . losing them. I can not imagine government agents handing children over to traffickers. I can not imagine anyone doing the various things that I have read that our government and its agents are in fact doing to children.

I can not fathom as someone who has spent their lives learning about the development of children and advocating for their well being how anyone in a position of power that is supposed to care about people, represent the people, and put policies into place that provide for the well being of our country can think anything about this is a good or acceptable idea. These policies and practices will scar a generation of children and we will be left to pick up the pieces.

And please, do not suggest to me that since these children are not American citizens that we don’t have some type of obligation to them. Children are the most vulnerable among us and we have an obligation to all of the world’s children to do the least harm possible to them. Whatever is happening in the world of adult politics, if we can’t even agree to do our very best to take care of children, then we have genuinely lost the plot. The very basic tenant of very basic humanity should be that we do everything we can to nurture and protect children. It’s not even a selfless act, to be honest, what happens to each generation of children effects the adults they will become and the future of not just them, but our country, of our world. They will soon be our doctors, our lawyers, our teachers and our policy makers. What we are doing has immediate and long term implications. It really is that dire.

The long term effects of childhood trauma include physical health issues, mental health issues, substance abuse, and troubles bonding and forming meaningful relationships. It shapes their view of self and their view of the world. It impacts who they are and who they will become. There is both a high human and dollar cost associated with childhood trauma.

I thought we had all agreed that at a bare minimum, we all had an obligation to the least of these, the most vulnerable among us, our children.

Today I am celebrating 23 years of marriage to The Mr. All together, we have been together for a quarter of a century. That’s a really long time. We have had some really rough moments: we lost a child in pregnancy, we lost a house to a flood and an economic crisis, we’ve lost friends and family members, and there are times when we didn’t know how we were going to feed our children and pay our bills, but at the end of the day, I get to come home to this lovely man and two amazing children whom I richly adore. I can’t imagine any of the things happening to my children that I have read about in the last two days. And as my heart celebrates my blessings, it also aches because I look at what my country is doing to someone else’s children and I am angry, afraid, and heartbroken.

Today I will celebrate with my family and snuggle my children. Somewhere else, there are parents who had their children taken away by the U.S. government and its agents and no one can tell them where those children are.

This can not be acceptable for any of us.

Comments

  1. Debbie Jenson says:

    So well said. So many similar thoughts floating around in my mind when I heard of “lost children” and separated families. Thank you for writing it down, Karen!

  2. Thank you for writing down what many of us are thinking. No one talks about the trauma, the long-term effects. Perhaps reading this memoir will suggest a bit of the trauma, the nature of the struggle, when a family is torn apart: In the Country We Love, by Diane Guerrero (featured author and keynote speaker in this jointly sponsored program that was organized in Spring 2018: https://www.haywardbooktoaction.org/). Also La Misma Luna, or Under the Same Moon, a film from 2008.

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