There was little surprise when the Health and Human Services (HHS) inspector general recently announced kids were deeply traumatized by separation from their parents, which was part of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy involving migrants in detention. Overall, the U.S. Government’s actions caused anxiety and stress in children of all ages, but particularly preteens.

This seems to be a well-timed rebuttal to the administration’s call to remove maximums for the length that migrant families can be detained. It also goes on to point out the irreparable damage felt by the children, many of whom were fleeing dangerous communities and desperate economic conditions in Central America.

Common issues brought to light

Several issues will need to be addressed now by fighting these policies and helping families traumatically caught up by them:

  • Mental health of kids: The trauma causes such feelings as suicidal thoughts, extreme anxiety, feelings of abandonment, fear that parents are dead and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
  • Improper care: Children in detention managed by the HHS are supposed to get counseling from professional therapists, but there are only a third of what is needed, and many are under-qualified.
  • Treatment will take years: Treating detained children’s symptoms will take years, and many will never recover. They will also have a much higher chance of additional mental health issues as they become adults.
  • Haphazard reunification process: The chaos over how the HHS handled the court-ordered family reunifications made matters worse.
  • Witnesses to violence: There were also instances were young children witnessed the rape or murder of older family members.

Problems are widespread

A watchdog group conducted the study within the HHS that is in charge of managing the detention centers. It went to 45 sites around the country and interviewed staff working in these facilities. Hopefully, this will bring significant change in immigrant detention policies regarding children, but families can also take action with the help of an attorney if they have members in danger.