When I see the never-ending news reports about the inhumane conditions children in migrant detention centers are being forced to live in, I am reminded of my own experiences growing up in foster care facilities.
This article got it exactly right. What’s happening to children at the border is a travesty. But it’s also happening to kids in foster care systems throughout the country. It’s time to look in the mirror.
I live in San Antonio, Texas, just minutes from the border with Mexico. As a child, I lost my mother and was taken from my abusive father. I endured years of neglect and abuse as the child welfare agency moved me between residential facilities across multiple states.
I still have nightmares from my last placement in Utah. It was the worst of them all. They monitored my sleep and locked me in the basement alone for days at a time. They listened in on my phone calls and read my mail. I was told the sexual abuse I had lived through was my fault. I was put on four medications that affected my impulse control, and my moods were all over the place. I wanted to kill myself.
Staff in these facilities treated me like I was a problem to be managed rather than a young girl who needed compassion and love. If this level of mistreatment can happen to a citizen like me, it’s no surprise that it’s happening to immigrant children – even as cases of abuse are kept in the shadows.
The struggles of foster youth and young people in migrant detention facilities are connected. I’m proud to be a champion member of Children’s Rights, which is the nation’s conscience for how our government treats kids. They are working to end the institutionalization of children — and toward the day when all children can grow up in safe, loving homes.
As many as 80 percent of children in migrant detention have family members in the U.S. who can take them into their homes. With the proper resources, many of these children could be released from detention in a matter of days.
I know this is a complicated problem. But as someone with lived experience, I think it’s time we all put kids first and find solutions that keep them safe. And that means both at the border and in cities and towns across the country where what’s happening to kids is not making headline news.
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Thousands of children are trapped in systems they do not understand. These systems fail to understand that children need time and space to be children and develop the foundations that allow them to be who they truly are.
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