Children kidnapped from their families at the southern border by the Trump administration suffered “fear, feelings of abandonment, and post-traumatic stress” as a result of their separation, the Health and Human Services watchdog has found, causing some kids to believe that “their parents had abandoned them,” while others “expressed acute grief that caused them to cry inconsolably.”
Many migrant children were already fleeing horrific situations in their home countries, and the Trump administration’s barbaric “zero tolerance” policy only worsened this trauma, the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general says in a new report. “Children who did not understand why they were separated from their parents suffered elevated levels of mental distress” compared to kids who weren’t separated.
Inspectors visited nearly half of the Office of Refugee Resettlement facilities where migrant kids are held. There, “program directors and mental health clinicians reported that children who believed their parents had abandoned them were angry and confused.” One program director said that a 7- or 8-year-old boy stolen from his dad “was under the delusion that his father had been killed and believed that he would also be killed. This child ultimately required emergency psychiatric care to address his mental health distress.”
Their trauma also manifested in other ways, a medical director said. “Physical symptoms felt by separated children are manifestations of their psychological pain. You get a lot of ‘my chest hurts,’ even though everything is fine [medically]. Children describe symptoms, ‘Every heartbeat hurts,’ ‘I can’t feel my heart,’ of emotional pain.”
Staffers further told inspectors that they struggled to address concerns because the children were unable to trust them. “For example, one program director noted that separated children could not distinguish facility staff from the immigration agents who separated them from their parents,” the report said. “Every single separated kid has been terrified,” said the program director. “We’re [seen as] the enemy.”
Because the administration stole kids as young as 4 months old, “staff reported feeling challenged to care for children who presented different needs from the teenagers they typically served,” the report continued. "The little ones don't know how to express what they are feeling, what has happened,” said a program director. “Communication is limited and difficult. They need more attention.”
In July, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform found that at least 18 babies and toddlers under the age of two—“including nine infants under the age of one”—were kidnapped from their families and separated for anywhere from 20 days to as long as six months. That 4-month-old baby, Constantin Mutu, is “now more than a year and a half old,” The New York Times reported, but “still can’t walk on his own, and has not spoken.”
The report also found that the process to reunite the kids with their families was as cruelly botched as the separation policy, as guidance “changed frequently and with little notice.” Staffers “reported that some reunifications were scheduled with little advance notice, or suddenly canceled or delayed, which increased the levels of uncertainty and anxiety in separated children and other children in the facility.”
“In one case,” the report notes, “a child was moved from a facility in Florida to a facility in Texas to be reunited with her father. However, a mental health clinician reported that after the child made several trips to the detention center, she was returned to the Florida facility ‘in shambles’ without ever seeing her father.” In shambles. This government-implemented child abuse has always been justification enough to impeach this president. Every single day that that doesn’t happen is another day these kids remain robbed of justice.