Peacemakers work to expose the atrocities at the border while peacebuilders are working to change the systemic problems that operate child welfare systems in the United States. The government claims that the conflict between parents and the United States government is overwhelming the judicial system and causing the children to linger in state custody longer. Children rights activist claim that the children’s rights are being violated. Lawyers claim that both the children and parental rights are being violated. The states claim protective custody of the children. The United nations says that the United States must stop separating migrant children from parents. U.S parents say that the government is too intrusive in their lives and that the government has too much control over what happens to the United States’ own children.
Many children grow up in juvenile detention facilities, group homes, foster homes, and adoptive homes. These children usually have lower academic scores, fewer resources, and struggle with depression. This problem has created a conflict between U.S. parents and the government because there are many psychological, emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical ways that children being separated from their family affects them. Grassroots groups have popped up around the country and civil organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Parental Rights Foundation have filed lawsuits.
U.S. parents, immigrant parents, and other family members of children that have been taken into state custody claim that the government is not doing enough to protect the children in government custody and that the children would be better off with their own families.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes 30 articles that detail unique human rights. But immigrant and American children that are taken into state custody lose their rights to due process, their family, their nationality, their heritage, their culture, and their security of person. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) points out that the United States has no excuse for not signing The Convention on the Rights of the Child. This failure by the United States government leaves children subjected to civil rights violations such as with the refugee children who make up over half of the world’s refugees.
Most Americans think of children being used as soldiers and for sex trafficking as something that happens in other countries, but in all actuality, the United States leads the world in child sex trafficking and pornography. The United States is the number one buyer and seller of children and porn.
Child labor is used in many industries around the world who exploit children for their cheap labor and the United States is no exception. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, child soldiers, police abuse, and child sex-trafficking are some of the ways that children’s rights are violated. Children that are put in state custody are more vulnerable to such atrocities.
Research gathered by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that children who live with nurturing families in supportive communities achieve higher academic scores and build stronger personal connections. That report also shows the importance of confronting poverty in the United States and around the world because children need their family and the family needs children, but it is also important to create successful families that can provide for themselves.
Peacebuilders want to incorporate global and American values to protect children’s rights by removing the poverty factor that often leads to family separations. In the United States, the Department of Children and Families has been set up under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The problems the agency faces stem from a lack of accountability. HHS is immune to common law because it operates under public health laws that are based on the idea of protecting the general public from sickness and diseases. In such case, the agency is not under oversite of any other agency and does not have to abide by common law principals. The result is that individual human rights are violated under public health policy.
Rights of children are being violated around the world and in the United States. Recently there was an article in the news about children being imprisoned inside the United States. The article refers to immigrant children at the border but actually there are children that are separated throughout the United States for several reasons. Sometimes children are abused or neglected. There are also the tragic cases where a child’s parents are killed in an accident or die from a fatal disease. Most Americans believe that when HHS makes a decision regarding a child’s “best interest” that the state is looking out for the individual child. However, that may or may not be true.
There is no definition for the best interest of the child, and most of HHS definitions pertaining to “family” have no reference to biological family. What is even worse is that statistically speaking, most of the American children that have been separated from their own biological families were not separated because they were abused. American children are almost always separated under the assumption of neglect, without due process, where an opinion is made under public health law, not common law, that “the best interest of a child” will better be served in another setting. Most often that setting refers to a complete stranger’s home where the child loses access to his or her own family and culture.
Data from the Casey Foundation shows that 30% of U.S. children live in households with less than a $25,000 income. Children in state custody or non-family placements tend to drop out of high school, abuse drugs, become pregnant teens, and are incarcerated at higher rates than children who grow up with their own supportive families.
A common argument made by people that are unaware of how HHS operates is that sometimes parents have to leave the state or country for work and have to leave their family behind at home. People often argue that military families have to leave their children to work in other countries. And while it is true that many Americans leave their families behind to work in other countries, the separation is not forced at the hands of governments. This adds to the confusion when it comes to people from other countries being upset about being separated at the border and what is happening to them and their families.
Human rights are essential to peace. It is essential that peacebuilders create policies that address children rights issues that children and their families face in the United States. Children need loving family, safe communities, good schools, and other support services that social justice workers and other professionals can provide to make communities safer and stronger for future generations. Stronger individuals create stronger families, and stronger families build stronger communities.
Children from low-income families fare better when the family is given the financial opportunity to move to neighborhoods with higher social-mobility rates, better schools, services, and health care. Peacebuilders will have to create policies and programs that address the educational needs of parents so that they can obtain skills that lead to employment that will allow them to support their children. Programs also need to be created that will address parenthood, teen pregnancies, single parenthood, and the importance of extended family members. People also need skills to manage their finances and maintain housing.
ACLU, (2019), New lawsuit Seeks Damages for Traumatized Children and Parents Torn Apart by Family Separations, aclu.org press release, ACLU 100 year, retrieved From, https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/new-lawsuit-seeks-damages-traumatized-children-and-parents-torn-apart-family
General Assembly of the United Nations. (1948). The universal declaration of human rights. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml
Habib, Yamily, (2018), Imprisoned children: when the United States breaks its own record in violation of human rights, Al Dia News Media, Retrieved from, https://aldianews.com/articles/politics/immigration/imprisoned-children-when-united-states-breaks-its-own-record-violation.
Hamilton, Lisa, (2019), 2019 Kids Count Data Book, State trends in child well-being, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Retrieved From, https://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-2019kidscountdatabook-2019.pdf
Menon, Rajan, (2020), The shame of child poverty in the Trump era: Poor kids lose as billionaires cash in, Alternet Media Inc. Retrieved From, https://www.alternet.org/2020/02/the-shame-of-child-poverty-in-the-trump-era-poor-kids-lose-as-billionaires-cash-in/
Shah, Anup, (2003), Rights of the Child, Global Issues, Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Affect Us All, Retrieved from, https://www.globalissues.org/article/152/rights-of-the-child
The Guardian, (2018), UN says US must stop separating migrant children from parents, Policy of separating families to control migration ‘unlawful and violates rights of the child’, Retrieved from, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/05/un-says-us-must-stop-separating-migrant-children-from-parents
UNICEF.org, (2020) Child rights and why they matter, Every right, for every child, Retrieved From, https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention/child-rights-why-they-matter