The Irrevocable Harm of Indefinite Detention of Immigrant and Refugee Children  

This post originally posted by Save the Children Action Network.
Written by Megan McKenna, Senior Director of Communications and Community Engagement at KIND

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) provides legal support services to unaccompanied and separated children, working to ensure that no child appears in immigration court without high quality legal representation. Earlier this summer, Save the Children initiated a partnership with KIND to support their critical work serving children and families at the U.S.-Mexico border.  

harm of indefinite detention on immigrant refugee children

“Please don’t forget about us.”
-Unaccompanied child held in custody in California

The prolonged and indefinite detention of immigrant and refugee children in detention facilities – which the Trump Administration is proposing in new regulations – is without question an attack on the core values of the United States and will fundamentally change the way the U.S. treats vulnerable children.

The detention of children – regardless of the conditions – harms them in the short and long-term in profound ways. Studies have found that immigrant children held in detention are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, development delays, and attention deficit disorder. How deeply children are affected and the long-term impact depends on a variety of factors such as the age of the child, the trauma the child experienced previously, how long the child was held and under what conditions, and the child’s situation in relation to the child’s parent or caregiver.

In the best of circumstances, immigrant and refugee children have a difficult time understanding even the basics of the U.S. immigration system as they are new to the United States and know little to nothing about U.S. systems, law, or processes. They most likely do not speak English. They are scared of people in uniform, terrified that they will be sent back to the very harm they fled and carry a tremendous amount of uncertainty for their future.  

As a KIND beneficiary in Los Angeles said, “I was all alone. I was scared and I didn’t know what would happen to me. I didn’t understand the guards and that made them angry.”

Prolonged detention compounds any trauma immigrant and refugee children suffered in their home country that caused them to flee, or on the life-threatening journey to the United States. Most KIND clients have been traumatized in some way, many as a result of gang violence, including sexual and gender-based violence in their home country. These root causes of migration and the deeply personal emotional scarring they cause can become secondary to the damaging emotional and psychological impact of prolonged detention, thus impairing a child’s ability to make a case for U.S. protection.

Detention of children is unnecessary. Alternatives to detention have been used in the past and been very successful.

The findings of two doctors within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which has investigated DHS facilities, perhaps say it best. They wrote in a July 2018 letter to Congress, “In our professional opinion, there is no amount of programming that can ameliorate the harms created by the very act of confining children to detention centers. Detention of innocent children should never occur in a civilized society, especially if there are less restrictive options, because the risk of harm to children simply cannot be justified.”

Or, as a girl described during her time in detention, “[The officer] told me to stop crying….I tried, but I couldn’t stop.”

To learn more about how Save the Children is providing direct assistance to migrant children and their families, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

How to Help Children in Crisis at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Save the Children was founded in 1919 on the pioneering belief that every last child has the right to survive, learn and be protected. Today, we continue this work, advocating for children facing inhumane treatment and potential irreparable harm at the U.S.-Mexico border. Through all of the complexities of this crisis, one thing is clear and simple: we can and must do more to protect children and keep families together.

In response to this crisis, Save the Children is announcing new and expanded efforts to support vulnerable children, including supporting programs here in the United States, strengthening family reunification efforts, programming to address root causes in Latin America and continuing to speak out against policies that are harmful to children.

“Children and their families are fleeing unspeakable violence in their home countries and face a long and dangerous journey to the U.S. border, with the hope of a better life. Last year, I met a 13-year-old boy in El Salvador who recounted the story of how his best friend, beaten by a gang because he refused to join, died in his arms. After sharing that heart-wrenching story, he told me his fear: ‘I don’t think I’ll ever grow to be an adult in my country.’ No child should live with this kind of fear, with so little hope for the future,” said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children. “Simply put, our children deserve better.”

Save the Children is calling on all people who care about kids to use your voice and take a stand with Save the Children.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. MAKE A DONATION TODAY TO SUPPORT OUR BORDER CRISIS CHILDREN’S RELIEF FUND.

 

Poverty In America Is Affecting 14.1 Million Children – Who Are They?

By Sara Neumann; Photo by Ellery Lamm

When you shine a light on where poverty in America has the strongest grip on children’s lives, it’s most often in our wide open spaces.

From the hills and hollers of Appalachia in the east, to the Deep South, all the way to California’s distressed Central Valley and beyond, children are more likely to experience childhood ender events related to poverty.

Rural child poverty1 in the United States is a subject that is rarely discussed in today’s national conversation, but given the findings of the new research in Save the Children’s 2018 End of Childhood Report – and Index, it should be.

How is Rural Child Poverty in the U.S. Defined?

According to this first-of-its-kind analysis of rural child poverty rates across America, rural child poverty is much more pervasive than one might think.

Poverty affects more than one billion children worldwide, including millions in the U.S. And while most Americans think child poverty is only an urban issue, child poverty rates are higher in rural areas. Nearly 1 in 4 rural children grow up in poverty.

What Percent of Children Live Below the Poverty Line?

In 2016, 23.5% of America’s children in rural areas were impoverished as compared to 18.8 % in urban areas. On the county level, between 2012 and 2016, 41 counties in the United States had child poverty rates of 50% or higher, 93 % of which (38 out of 41) were rural.2

6.1 million live in the South; 3.2 million live in the West; 2.7 million live in the Midwest; 2.0 million live in the Northeast

Certain geographic areas of America, including the Mississippi Delta, the Southwest, Central Valley and Appalachia, have the highest rates of persistent child poverty and are mostly rural. The vast majority of poor, rural African American children live in the South, where child poverty rates are historically the highest. Native American children, whose poverty is concentrated in the Southwest and Northern Plains, and Alaskan native children have the second highest rural poverty rate at 39.3%. One-third of rural Hispanic children are poor; their poverty is concentrated in the South and West. Poor rural white children, in comparison, tend to be spread across Appalachia.3

Poverty in America
Santos, 4, and his sister Anahi, 2, are growing up in California’s distressed Central Valley | Photo credit: Tamar Levine

4.9 million are aged 0-5; 4.9 million are 6 to 11; 4.2 million are 12 to 17

Across rural America, children ages 0 to 5 have a poverty rate of 27%. This is compared to 24% of children ages 6 to 11 living in poverty and 20% of children ages 12 to 17. Young children in rural areas also face 1.5 times the rate of deep poverty as their non-rural peers, 13% versus 9%. Deep poverty means a child’s family has an income below half of the federal poverty line. This is especially concerning because deep, pervasive poverty often leads to long-lasting developmental and health problems, further perpetuating the cycle.4

8.1 million are children of single mothers; 4.5 million live in married couple families; 2.1 million are children of single fathers

Scarcity of jobs, geographic isolation and lack of transportation often pose greater earnings challenges for rural parents than urban parents.5 Rural parents also tend to have less education and a higher incidence of underemployment, which places their children at higher risk for poverty. In rural America, half of all children living with single mothers are impoverished (51.5%) as compared to 11.9% of rural children in married-couple families. This means that children of single mothers in rural areas are four times as likely to live in poverty as their peers with both parents at home.

890,000 are children with disabilities

Nationally, 29% of disabled children are poor, compared to 19% of non-disabled children. In rural areas, poverty rates among disabled children climb to 35%. In other words, over one-third of disabled children in rural areas are growing up poor.6

The impact of child poverty unfolds over the course of a lifetime

Research has linked child poverty in rural areas to low levels of well-being during both childhood and adulthood, encompassing poor educational, economic, behavioral and health outcomes.

Since 1932, Save the Children has been on the ground providing support to the most isolated and underserved children in rural America. From our earliest days in Appalachia – helping children and families hardest-hit by the Great Depression – to today, our U.S. team goes where others cannot.

To learn more about how Save the Children helps America’s hardest-to-reach children, and how you can help children in America, visit us at www.savethechildren.org/usa.

 

1. In the United States, being in poverty is officially defined as having an income below a federally determined poverty threshold. Poverty thresholds were developed in the 1960s and are adjusted annually to account for inflation. They represent the federal government’s estimate of the point below which a family of a given size has cash income insufficient to meet basic needs. The thresholds form the basis for calculating the “incidence of poverty,” which is typically reported as a headcount or as a percentage of the population.

2. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Rural Poverty & Well-Being. April 19, 2018.

3. Farrigan, Tracey. Child Poverty. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Accessed April 3, 2018.

4. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Rural Poverty & Well-Being.  April 19, 2018.

5. McGranahan, David. Rural Child Poverty Chart Gallery. May 20, 2018.

6. Save the Children’s analysis of data from U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2016. These estimates were derived from American Fact Finder table B18130.