'Every single separated kid has been terrified' under Trump's family separation


An investigation by Trump's own Health and Human Services department lays out the trauma kids face because of family separation.

A report released Wednesday by the Health and Human Services inspector general lays out the extreme trauma children are facing after the Trump administration ripped them away from their families.

The investigation found "separated children exhibited more fear, feelings of abandonment, and post-traumatic stress than did children who were not separated." Investigators interviewed key personnel at 45 federally funded facilities detaining children, with a focus on the mental health of children locked up by the Trump administration.

Children were traumatized by the Trump policy to the point that "some separated children expressed acute grief that caused them to cry inconsolably."

Many of the children in detention facilities already faced harrowing circumstances just to make it to the U.S., including both witnessing and surviving violence. Staff in several facilities reported "children who had been kidnapped or raped, some by members of gangs or drug cartels." Other children "witnessed the rape or murder of family members or were fleeing threats against their own lives."

Once these children made it to the U.S., the Trump administration inflicted additional harm by ripping children away from their parents.

Some children thought they were abandoned by their parents, causing both fear and anger. Others became anxious because facilities could not locate their parents, causing stress and worry among children concerned about their parents' well-being.

The trauma of being separated from family members made mental health care even more difficult.

"Every single separated kid has been terrified," one program director told investigators. Many children could not tell the difference between immigration officials who tore kids away from their parents and facility staff seeking to help the children recover from the trauma. "We're [seen as] the enemy," the program director added.

The report sparked outrage by at least one member of Congress.

"This is government-run child abuse, and the damage can be long-lasting," Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) told Shareblue Media. "I have seen these facilities and, as a psychologist, I know the harm they can cause children in particular. That's why I introduced H.R. 1069, my legislation with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), to shut down child prison camps," she added.

In addition to dealing with retraumatized children, many federally funded facilities were understaffed. Federal regulations call for one mental health profession for every 12 children, but according to the investigation, some facilities forced mental health workers to carry a caseload of over than twice that number — more than 25 children.

High caseloads meant the mental health care workers were not able to provide adequate counseling for all the children under their care.

The Trump administration was well aware of the harm its family separation policy would cause children. In a 2018 hearing, a senior HHS official said that the Trump administration was warned that separating families would cause "significant" and "traumatic" harm to children.

Trump officials ignored these warnings, resulting in terrified kids suffering from post-traumatic stress and crying inconsolably.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.