Former Stoneleigh Fellow and current Board Member David Rubin writes about the older children who have been separated from their families at the United States’ southern border and the devastating trauma they may face as a result.
It’s been more than three months since our government began systematically separating children from their parents at the southern border, and one month since a federal court ordered the reunification of those families. What was once a daily front-page story has already become buried in the 24-hour news cycle. The stories that do continue to be told about these children and their parents largely focus on the youngest children, as the government missed a court-ordered 14-day deadline for their reunification with their families.
The failure to reunify many of these infants and toddlers by July 10 is deeply concerning to me, considering their numbers — about 100 children — are far fewer than the more than 2,500 children over the age of 5 who also were separated from their parents. The federal government is facing a July 26 deadline — that’s Thursday — for reunifying this larger group, and we haven’t seen promising signs that this important deadline will be met.
As a pediatrician who has worked closely with our child welfare and foster care systems, I worry that this necessary focus on separated infants and toddlers has distracted us from the gravity of what is transpiring for the larger group of older children. We have decades of experience with children growing up in our child welfare system to draw on as we realize the magnitude of what these families now face.