Thursday, June 21, 2018

We should all cry - 2000+ children still separated and housed in impoverished environments

538’s morning email has this “significant digit”.

$1.5 billion in taxpayer money
Over the past four years, more than $1.5 billion in U.S. taxpayer money has gone to private companies that operate immigrant youth shelters. These shelters have been accused of “serious lapses in care, including neglect and sexual and physical abuse,” according to a recent investigation. Now, these private facilities are beginning to house the more than 2,000 children separated from their parents as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. [Reveal]

And the thing is, these 2000 plus children are not covered by Trump’s executive order stopping his separation policy. They are still separated from their parents and are likely to remain so for the forseeable future.

The source for that 538 significant digits item reveals that Migrant children sent to shelters with histories of abuse allegations.

Taxpayers have paid more than $1.5 billion in the past four years to private companies operating immigrant youth shelters accused of serious lapses in care, including neglect and sexual and physical abuse, a Reveal investigation has found.

In nearly all cases, the federal government has continued to place migrant children with the companies even after serious allegations were raised and after state inspectors cited shelters with serious deficiencies, government and other records show.

Since 2003, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department has awarded nearly $5 billion in grants through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, mostly to religious and nonprofit organizations in 18 states, to house children who arrive in the country unaccompanied. …

Now this web of private facilities, cobbled together to support children with nowhere else to go, is beginning to hold a new population: the more than 2,000 children who arrived with their parents but were separated from them because of a Trump administration policy.

In Texas, where the resettlement agency awarded the majority of the grants, state inspectors have cited homes with more than 400 deficiencies, about one-third of them serious.

Images in recent days show children warehoused in a tent city in Tornillo, Texas, guarded by Department of Homeland Security officers dressed in body armor and carrying long guns. But that facility is a temporary way station. From there, immigrant children resettled through the Office of Refugee Resettlement often are sent into the messy reality of foster care and shelters designed for unaccompanied minors.

revealnews.org documents what happens when the children are housed in these homes and shelters. It is not pretty. There is a long list of charges of neglect, physical abuse, and even sexual assault. I can’t do justice to that list - there is just too much.

Psychological consequences of separation

All that connects to my own professional experience as a cognitive psychologist.

After returning from service in the U.S. Army in 1966, I enrolled in college and one of my first courses was Differential Psychology, the study of individual differences. I became interested in the broad topic of the origins of intelligence. In that course I learned about the effects of early experience on intellectual and social development. My first published research was on enriched environments on the emotional development of laboratory rats. I then began my research career by investigating effects of enriched vs. impoverished environments on brain chemistry and anatomy and behavior.)

A major influence on that body of research and theory was the pioneering work of the English psychologist John Bowlby. Here are lightly edited excerpts from Bowlby’s Wikipedia entry.

[During World War II], Bowlby examined 44 delinquent children from Canonbury who had a history of stealing and compared them to “controls” from Canonbury that were being treated for various reasons but did not have a history of stealing.

One of Bowlby’s main findings through his research with these children was that 17 out of the 44 thieves experienced early and prolonged separation (six months or more) from their primary caregiver before the age of five.[12] In comparison, only two out of the 44 children who did not steal had experienced prolonged separation from their primary care giver before the age of five. More specifically, Bowlby found that 12 out of the 14 children were categorized as affectionless were found to have experienced complete and prolonged separation before the age of five. These findings were important and brought more attention to the impact of a child’s early environmental experiences on their healthy development.

Although not without its critics, attachment theory has been described as the dominant approach to understanding early social development and it has given rise to a great surge of empirical research into the formation of children’s close relationships. As it is presently formulated and used for research purposes, Bowlby’s attachment theory stresses the following important tenets:

(1) Children between 6 and 30 months are very likely to form emotional attachments to familiar caregivers, especially if the adults are sensitive and responsive to child communications.

(2) The emotional attachments of young children are shown behaviourally in their preferences for particular familiar people; their tendency to seek proximity to those people, especially in times of distress; and their ability to use the familiar adults as a secure base from which to explore the environment.

(3) The formation of emotional attachments contributes to the foundation of later emotional and personality development, and the type of behaviour toward familiar adults shown by toddlers has some continuity with the social behaviours they will show later in life.

(4) Events that interfere with attachment, such as abrupt separation of the toddler from familiar people or the significant inability of carers to be sensitive, responsive or consistent in their interactions, have short-term and possible long-term negative impacts on the child’s emotional and cognitive life.

A case study

In this morning’s Daily Star, Janni Simner shares her experience in I know what family separation looks like. Simner recounts her experience with an adopted daughter and then connects to the current thousands of children separated from their parents. Here are excerpts.

My daughter was well-cared for before we adopted her. She was safe, well-fed, and genuinely loved by her foster nannies. When those nannies left her, my husband and I were with her 24/7 to guide her and love her through a challenging transition and help her become the resilient, secure, curious, laughter-filled child she is today.

Young Central Americans are losing a family at our border instead. They’re being handed to officials who may not speak their language and almost certainly don’t have training working with traumatized children. When those officials shuttle them to a place such as the Southwest Key facility here in Tucson, they’re not handed to the dedicated one-on-one caregivers they need, but to a rotating team of staffers responsible for a great many children and with limited time for each of them.

These children are no worse and no less deserving than my daughter was. They’re simply children, and they need to be with their parents. Every moment matters. Lawmakers at every level — and those of us who elected them — need to act immediately to reunite every last separated family and halt future separations.

Thousands of young lives and young futures depend on it.

Why we should cry

Rachel Maddow breaks down in tears on air while reading report on ‘tender age’ shelters is the longer version of what I posted yesterday.

When she first received the breaking news report, Rachel Maddow seemed to be holding it together like any other night.

“This has just come out from the Associated Press,” the MSNBC television host said as she began reading the report in front of her. She paused, swallowing.

“This is incredible. Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children …”

Her voice catching, Maddow covered her mouth. She tried to keep going. “… to at least three …”

Then she stopped again, visibly tearing up.

“Put up the graphic of this,” she asked, pointing to the camera, her lips quivering. “Thank you. Do we have it? No.”

Maddow continued reading: “…three tender age shelters in South Texas. Lawyers and medical providers …” She stopped again. “I think I’m going to have to hand this off.”

“Sorry, that does it for us tonight. We’ll see you again tomorrow,” she said, handing the show over to host Lawrence O’Donnell.

After the show, she tweeted an apology for breaking down.

“Ugh, I’m sorry,” she said. “If nothing else, it is my job to actually be able to speak while I’m on TV.”

She explained that she was “unable to read” the Associated Press story that broke while she was on the air. She linked to the article, which reported that at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas have been housing children as young as babies. The story cited lawyers and medical providers who described “playrooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis.”

Again, I apologize for losing it there for a moment,” Maddow said. “Not the way I intended that to go, not by a mile.”

But many viewers on Twitter said that Maddow expressed a sentiment felt by scores of Americans amid the Trump administration’s forced separation of migrant children from their parents at the border. The Department of Homeland Security has said 2,342 children have been separated from their parents since last month. Stories and images of children held in chain-link cages have sparked outrage nationwide.

“Rachel Maddow crying on live national television is the first thing that has felt sane in two weeks,” one viewer tweeted.

“She represented what millions of Americans have been feeling, and still feel,” said another.

Now put that together with attachment theory. These kids will bear the scars of their treatment at the hands of the Trump administration, likely for the rest of their lives. We should all cry.

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