It is with interest, sadness, and anger that I read the news of children being separated from their parents at the border. I am writing this in order to put a human face on the facts.
Some 30 years ago we adopted two Latino children from McAllen, Texas. (The same place where many are being held today.) My kiddos were 2.5- and 3.5-years-old and had been moved around in various foster care facilities before we adopted them. We were naive and did not realize the traumas the children had endured by the mere fact of separation. Nor were there many experts around to offer advice, skills and direction.
To begin with, the children were withdrawn. For the first year they lived with us they did not gain a single pound. Their weight stayed at 19 and 21 pounds. The doctor commented “failure to thrive.” They each regressed to wearing diapers. My daughter was expressionless. She did not cry, laugh or speak. Instead she would curl up in a ball and roll back and forth, trying to soothe herself. It took her two years to utter a sound. My son would take the hand of any stranger and simply walk away. Twice I had to have authorities shut down the Kalispell Mall so we could find him. He was diagnosed with an attachment disorder. By the age of 5 he developed chronic stomach issues. Apparently the flood of stress hormones from all the separation wreaked havoc on his intestines. He ended up being air lifted to the children’s hospital in Seattle to save his life. A feeding tube was placed in his heart so his GI track could heal. He lost all the weight he had gained and was now all of 25 pounds turning 6.
Both kids had the odd habit (so I thought) of hoarding food. I would find sacks of brown sugar, entire clumps of bananas, loaves of bread and everything in between stashed in closets, under bedding, in clothes hampers. I would later come to realize after reading many articles, that this was common among children who were “warehoused” … it did not matter whether they were Romanian, Russian or Mexican. They simply did not get their basic emotional needs met at a very young age. They had been separated from parents and dumped into systems, be it orphanages, internment camps or endless foster care. Food hoarding has to do with scares of separation.
School was always a challenge. My daughter attended special education and her brother struggled in regular ed. By the sixth grade he was suicidal and still bed wetting. Eventually I had to agree to a psychiatric placement. This bought him time, but little else. We tried homeschooling and then back to regular school. He was picked up by the local police on a regular basis for just walking. He was brown. He was fingerprinted “just in case.” Growing anger added to his instability. Eventually he got into drugs, alcohol and then prison. He served four years in the Montana penal system for breaking a window of a convenience store. He was brown. The only thing good about prison is that my son realized most of the others serving time were either Native or Latino … he finally found his homies! He moved to Billings after prison to live in a Latino community and was making progress.
All the love and care offered the children over the years did create bonds … very strong bonds in fact. But it did not undo the damage of those early years. My daughter lives with me as she is too scared to live alone and is constantly afraid of me dying. My son called regularly and was coming home for Christmas when he died in a tragic accidental shooting a few years back. We are still healing from his passing.
When I take my horse to the vet clinic and he stays overnight, he gets a tag so he is identified. They do not want him being mistaken with some other horse and owner. The children being separated from their owners, so to speak, were not even given a simple identifying bracelet … the kind you get going to the hospital. Wow! The absolute stupidity of what has happened is only surpassed by the absolute immorality of those perpetrating these crimes against families. The real truth of the matter is that Trump and his base regard people of color as “children of a lesser God,” not worthy of dignity and basic human rights. I have not heard from one local ardent Bible banging expert on this crime … perhaps they think Jesus is white, blue-eyed and blond. He was a man of color and cared deeply about injustices.
Marion Foley is a resident of Martin City.