Thoughts: Long-term Effects of Child Separation at the Border

The detainment, imprisonment, and separation of families at the border are not the first time the United States has participated in such acts. Our nation is founded on the premises of family separation and relocation that have affected millions of people of color both in the United States and across the globe. As you may have seen, there are already several articles that have pointed this information out and spoken to the extreme trauma, harm, and evil that is being done to these children. There are no processes in place to reunite the children with their parents, and the United States is just not prepared to humanely take care of the thousands of children that are flooding the Department of Children and Families.

While Trump has decided to sign an executive order to end child separation, it still gives me pause for the children that are still being affected by this policy, especially those who cannot speak for themselves. As an adoptee, as a person who was separated from their birth mother, and as a person who was institutionalized for the majority of their first year of life, this pains me like no other. The harmful effects lead to so much more than people can fathom, even for those that are adopted into homes that love them.

Unfortunately, there is a high probability that they will not. While there are orgnaizations that are working towards reuniting families, resources can only go so far. Without help, finding parents for a child is nearly impossible. Many of these children are unfamiliar with the intricate bureaucratic systems of the dependency system in the United States or speak English. Many of them will get trapped in a system that is already failing our most vulnerable youth.

As someone who has researched and learned more about the Foster Care System over the past five years in the United States, this is an issue that is far, far more damaging than is currently being reported. I do not claim to be an expert, nor do I have “credentials” that would assert me as such, but I do have knowledge that I think is highly applicable to what is occurring now.

Many children that enter the dependency system, especially older children, do not get adopted. Instead, they bounce around from place to place until they age out of the system altogether, ultimately funneling the youth, primarily youth of color and LGBTQ+ identified youth, to prison. The United State already has a pandemic of mass incarceration. They are placed in a system that is overcrowded, underfunded, and ultimately destined to fail. Even though the vast majority of youth in care wish to attend higher education, only 55% enroll in programs, and only 8% of students complete their programs due to barriers of financial support, housing stability, and more.

The worst part is, the violence does not end here. The cycle of foster care and violence can affect a family for generations. However, some non-profits and communities have been able to work with youth and young adults to disrupt these systems and have positive results. However, this is not enough. We need more people, institutions, and local governments.

 

What can you do to help?

1. Call your representatives. Demand change in immigration policy that protects children and families. Keep calling. Once a day. Once a week. Just keep calling. Get your friends and families to call.
2. While adoption can be positive, your first step should be to advocate for family preservation. No family should be separated because of circumstances outside of their control.
3. Donate your time and money to organizations that focus on assisting youth throughout their time in foster care, age out of foster care, and are no longer supported by the government through services. The support should not end once the foster care alumni reach an arbitrary number. A non-profit like, Educate Tomorrow focusing on a continuum of care.
4. Educate yourself on the inequity that that affects low-income communities and communities of color.
5. Make your own damn list of how to be more involved.

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