Dear Friends and Allies,
We know the separation of a child from their family causes indelible psychological harm and negatively impacts a child’s long-term development. Even in the most necessary of circumstances, family separation is traumatic. It can have consequences that last a lifetime and span across generations. Many of the young people who work with The Mockingbird Society have experienced this trauma and are open about the difficulty in overcoming the challenges associated with being removed from their families.
Our nation’s new policy of family separation at the border is not only unnecessary, it is cruel. We are committing large scale child abuse and neglect at our southern border by separating these children from their families.
It is incredible to me that with everything that we have learned and all that we have accomplished, we still are unable to respect the basic humanity of others. We know that humans need community and connection, and that children need care. Yet at our borders and often in our child welfare systems, community, connection, and care become so difficult to achieve that we stop trying. But our children need us to try, and our young people are far from giving up.
Last week, we held our Annual Youth Leadership Summit in which Mockingbird youth from across the state come together to share their proposals for systems reform to the Office of Homeless Youth Advisory Committee and The Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care. Our young people came out in full force to advocate for their peers who have experienced homelessness or foster care. Our Network Representatives presented on our legacy issue — to end the detention of young people for status offenses. A status offense is a noncriminal act that is considered a law violation only because of the youth’s status as a minor — these include truancy, running away from home and general ungovernability. Often these “offenses” signify that a young person is in need, and these needs are rarely, if ever, met by detention. We know from years of study that placing children and young people in detention causes post-traumatic stress and other issues, akin to those caused by family separation and detainment at the border.
As alumni of foster care and homelessness, our young people advocate to ensure their experiences become positive catalysts for change. Hearing the children at the border crying uncontrollably for their parents resonated deeply for many of us who have had similar experiences. Those cries are the sounds and emotions of our childhoods. Still, Mockingbird youth are working towards change. Many of our Chapter members have passed the point at which their policy proposals could benefit them personally. They are working not for themselves but for others, for all those young people who come after them.
As a community we need to stop focusing on the things that separate us and start focusing on the things that connect us. There is far more work to be done towards caring for youth and families in our nation and our state. Children need families and families need community. The policy of family separation at our borders is an indication of how little we are living up to these values in America.
Please join us in standing for human decency. Let your voice be heard by our public officials and let them know that all children, all young people, all our families, and all of our communities deserve to live with dignity. I believe we are up to the challenge.