Let’s Spread the Outrage

By Sandy Santana, Executive Director, Children's Rights

Sandy Santana

Over the last few weeks we saw a public and political outcry over the plight of children that was so intense it forced the Trump administration to abandon its cruel policy of taking immigrant children away from their parents at the border.*

The fact that this collective outrage actually changed public policy – and relatively quickly – is pretty impressive. It shows what is possible when people of conscience get together and make their voices heard. It would be great if we could channel that same passion for the rights of immigrant children into a movement to address the neglect and abuse experienced by millions of American children.

Nicolas Kristof raised the issue in his excellent column in the New York Times this week: “It’s not just the kids at the border. America systematically shortchanges tens of millions of children, including homegrown kids. The upshot is that American kids are more likely to be poor, to drop out of high school and even to die young than in other advanced countries.” Kristof goes on to describe the toll taken on US children through mass incarceration, excessive juvenile detention and overuse of foster care.

At Children’s Rights we know the problems these kids face – it’s the reason we exist. Every day children are harmed by our nation’s broken foster care, juvenile justice, education and healthcare systems:

  • 60% of domestic child trafficking victims come from foster care and group homes.
  • 50% of foster care kids graduate from high school by the age of 18.
  • 47% of juvenile detention centers use solitary confinement.
  • 50% of young people leaving state care become homeless.
  • 71% of girls in foster care will become pregnant by the age of 19.
  • Almost 80% of inmates incarcerated in our prisons have spent time in foster care.

Children’s Rights has spent the last 20-plus years attacking statistics like these by fiercely and effectively advocating for America’s most vulnerable children. I am so proud that in the last months we have been able to lend our expertise and our voice on behalf of children separated at our border. And I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Kristof: If we can broaden the current outrage over the treatment of immigrant children to the plight of all children in America, we could build a movement that could transform millions of young lives.

*This week a federal judge issued an injunction ordering the administration to immediately reunite the some 2,000 children who had already been taken from their parents. That’s good news, but there are indications that government officials plan to drag their feet on executing a swift and coordinated reunification plan. Visit our Family Separation Toolkit for information about how you can help keep the pressure on.


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