This Father’s Day, I’m going to enjoy being “top dog” (for a day at least) hanging out in my backyard like many Dads, barbecuing, day-drinking, telling the same old stories for the hundredth time and everyone is compelled to listen because it’s FATHERS DAY!
Coincidentally, my son’s birthday falls on the 15th, so the two days, his birthday and Father’s Day are inextricably linked, the Friday he was born made me a Father for the first time and the following Sunday, I celebrated my first Fathers Day in the hospital.
Being somebody else’s Dad is an awesome responsibility, one that is ongoing, humbling and challenging. I think, to be any good at it, takes a great deal of self-reflection, empathy, and compassion.
I was going to write a schmaltzy reflective essay about fatherhood, what my kids have taught me about being a father and in fundamental ways,
About being a man.
Then, I read this headline…
Trump administration cancels English classes, soccer, legal aid for unaccompanied child migrants in U.S. shelters
The latest salvo from the “Old Man Potter” Administration. It seems the kids they can actually keep track of in their state-sanctioned baby kennels, will be losing English classes, soccer & legal aid.
Ahh, America, just when you think we couldn’t possibly stoop lower, down we go.
They sight “budgetary restrictions”. The program supposedly could run out of money in late June, and the agency is legally obligated to direct funding to essential services. Like food, (Sysco services) clothing (subcontractors) and shelter (more subcontractors)
My question is, in a federal budget of approximately 4 trillion dollars, 20% of the U.S. economy (as measured by Gross Domestic Product, or GDP). How much are they actually spending on soccer balls, English tutors and Legal aid attorneys for these children?
I call bullshit.
These basic services, vital to the health and well being of human children are deemed, “Not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety, including education services, legal services, and recreation,” said Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Mark Weber.
Despite being just plain cruel. These draconian cuts run afoul of a federal court settlement and state-licensing requirements that mandate education and recreation for minors in federal custody.
Carlos Holguin, a lawyer who represents minors in a long-running lawsuit that spurred a 1997 federal court settlement that sets basic standards of care for children in custody, slammed these cuts as illegal in The Washington Post.
More than 40,800 unaccompanied children have been placed in HHS custody after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border this fiscal year, a 57 percent increase from last year that is putting the Office of Refugee Resettlement on track to care for the largest number of minors in the program’s history.
Federal shelters had an overall average of 12,500 minors — mostly teenagers — nationwide during April, according to HHS. They stayed an average of 48 days while waiting for a case worker to place them with a sponsor, usually a relative.
While they wait in the shelters, minors attend school, study math and English, and participate in extracurricular activities such as table tennis, soccer, and other sports.
There is no such thing as, “Other People’s Children.”
Ask any of my buddies growing up. If you were under my parent’s roof? You were temporally adopted. You were treated like my sister and myself. It follows, to this day, if you are a child within my care? I treat you like I treat my own kids. How I expect my own kids to be treated if they are staying with you. It’s a basic mammalian contract. We care for young, even those who aren’t our own.
I expect, no, I demand a basic standard of care for children in federal custody that reflects current best practices for the care and supervision of minor children and governed by good old common sense.
The LEAST we (I say “we” because our elected officials are in charge of this dumpster fire of a policy) can do is educate, provide legal services and some distraction from the harsh realities of their meager existence. These are children, without parents, in sometimes harsh, overcrowded conditions. They aren’t living the Life of Riley on the Government dole.
That would be our “Elected” officials, like those within this Administration responsible for this latest shameful episode.
Employees of these shelters are rightfully alarmed because educational classes and sports activities are crucial to maintaining physical and mental health while the children are in custody. Any services they receive at U.S. shelters are part of their recovery and provide some amount of diversion as they await placement.
“What are these kids going to do all day?” an anonymous shelter employee said in the same WaPo article,
If you’re not going to have any sort of organized recreation or physical activity, what are you going to do, just let them sit in their rooms?
Every analysis conducted since Childhood Development began as a field of study, cites the essential nature of play and education for children’s health and development. Schooling and recreation are fundamental to the care of youngsters. “Three hots and a cot” are insufficient.
You don’t have to be a genius or educator to realize this. Not even a Mom, or a Dad. Just remember being a kid.
Imagine yourself living under these conditions. Imagine the choices these kids and their families have faced until this point.
Now think about the few things you can look forward to as you languish in a strange place, simple things, that provide some “normalcy” like school and football, are taken away.
How would child-you cope with that? Do you really think, education, legal aid & soccer are “luxuries”?
Many of these children (unaccompanied minors I feel lessens the blow of what we are actually condoning) who show up at the border are fleeing gang violence and extreme poverty in Central America.
Much of which can be directly attributed to decades of proxy wars and U.S. intervention supporting dictators within Central America (that’s not opinion, it’s a fact, easily obtainable and beyond the scope of what I’m willing to cover at this moment.) Trust and believe, these are desperate decisions made by poor families in crisis, wealthy kids don’t make this journey and parents don’t send their kids up north unless its to save their lives, knowing what they’ll face from the Trump Administration upon arrival.
And yes. This is a huge race issue. This country has a long painful history of treating black and brown people as sub-human. Assuming our kids don’t need what every kid needs goes back a long way in this country. What would you call it? The optics alone are outrageous and it all stinks to high heaven. It’s a basic humanitarian issue.
- If this Father’s Day, you can sit on your deck and grill or go fishing with your buddies and play with your kids in the backyard without a thought of what this country continues to do to the most vulnerable children in our charge?
- If you can look your kids in the eye and talk about America being a land of freedom and opportunity for those who work hard, being a nation of immigrants, waving flags around and crowing about how great things are going?
- If you can’t imagine (or simply don’t care about) the pain a Central American dad feels that is separated from his kid, who had to make the impossible choice to send a child alone or with strangers or risk keeping them with him and lose them to the streets?
There is something fundamentally human missing, but that’s not my job to fix. That cake is baked. I’m not the “asshole whisperer”. Enjoy your “World’s Greatest Dad” mug.
However, if you are moved, if this policy bothers you. If you feel is the “last straw” in the enormous bundle of last straws of hardships this Administration inflicts on innocents.
- If you realize this act isn’t “normal”. If you believe in your heart this is wrong, that no child, no matter which side of the border they were born on, should be treated this way.
- If you can imagine your own kids in similar situations, facing what these kids are facing daily, and it makes you sad or angry?
- If it makes you want to engage and get involved, talk to your family about what’s happening at the border, contact your representatives in Congress or donate to organizations committed to helping these children?
You’re a decent person and most likely, a good dad.
Join me in passing on the tie and encouraging your loved ones to make a donation to savethechildren.org
Learn how you and your family can help unaccompanied refugee children at the border.
My dad taught me, among other things that the fact you can’t do everything to solve a problem, doesn’t absolve you of doing anything to help.
Thinking of others is baseline parenting and recognition of others humanity is essential for everyone.
I thank him for doing all he could to raise my awareness. He was no philosopher, he was however a good man with a big heart who was slow to anger, quick to forgive, tough, fair, did the best he could for his family and loved me and my sister unconditionally.
His grandkids benefit everyday from his example.
Don’t forget the kids in custody.
Have a Happy Father’s Day.
What’s your take? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
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