In the past few weeks I have watched the news, seen the pictures and heard the rulings. Nearly 2,000 children housed in temporary circumstances separated from their parents and other caregivers whom they know. What is happening in the news is not what I thought this country stood for. It feels incongruent and inconsistent.
When I see photos of children sleeping under those silvery blankets behind what appear to be chain link fences… for a brief moment, I think I am looking at something taking place in another country.
“Young children are resilient… they’ll be okay… they’re so young they won’t remember.” But it is just not as simple as that. That is a naïve and incorrect assumption that I myself have made in the past.
I know now that the stress these children are experiencing is being etched into their brain chemistry and is suspending developmental progress. These children are in survival mode and it is all their system can focus on right now… how to survive. Stress hormones, which actually help prepare our systems for action, are working overtime for these children. These hormones are flooding their systems and getting in the way of new brain connections being built and preventing existing brain connections from strengthening. And the really hard part to hear is that it is impacting the very infrastructure of their brains. Keep in mind that by the age of 3 more than 85% of a child’s brain infrastructure is established.
We have created a situation which is damaging to children. Not just emotionally damaging, but physically damaging as well. We know that children exposed to multiple stressors in the early childhood years have much greater rates of heart disease, arthritis, and asthma… they are more likely to die younger and struggle with addiction.
And then I am reminded again that this is HERE in our country. But how could this be our country? The one which has stood up for human rights across the globe? How could it be? I understand policy and values and how we do not always disagree… but we must draw a line somewhere in the sand that we are not willing to cross. To me that line is doing harm to young vulnerable children.
We must not cross this line and we must step back immediately and permanently.