Letter to the Editor: ‘Child abuse emergency’ at border a call to action
Letters to the Editor
Pediatricians know that child abuse and neglect is a red line that must not be tolerated.
If, during a patient encounter, we suspect child abuse or neglect, we suspend the
rest of our non-essential agenda until the basic safety and well-being of that child
can be assured.
Right now, children who were brought here as migrants and asylum-seekers are being
forcibly separated from parents, aunts, uncles and siblings. They are living in overcrowded,
dirty detention centers without enough soap, clean clothes or food. And everywhere,
children cry out for their missing parents and are consoled by other children.
If any of the children in our clinical practice suffered this way, we would report
their parents to child protective services. And yet, the large-scale child abuse and
neglect happening at the border is so far out of public view and is sanctioned from
so high up in the government that many can, and do, feel powerless.
One of our only recourses is to magnify this issue through the actions of large organizations
of people. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in line with its long history of speaking
up for vulnerable children, could make a bold statement by focusing on the well-being
of children at the border.
What is needed now is bold, symbolic action to draw attention to the gravity of the
suffering of these children.
Last year, AAP Immediate Past President Colleen A. Kraft, M.D., M.B.A., FAAP, courageously
spoke out against the family separation policy, calling it “child abuse” in the national
media. Now, we need to keep going. We must demand humane conditions and ultimately
reunification with family for these traumatized children. Every day that this does
not happen, we fail them. The AAP should recognize this as a child abuse emergency.
Nancy A. Dodson, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP
Editor’s note: Since Dr. Dodson submitted her letter, AAP leaders have visited two
border facilities in Texas and have stepped up calls for improving how the U.S. treats
immigrant children when they arrive in our country. (See story at http://bit.ly/2y92t2z).There are many ways AAP members can advocate and care for immigrant children and families
in their communities. Supporting the Health and Well-being of Immigrant Children: Resources for Pediatricians (http://bit.ly/2xlCfcH) includes information on caring for immigrant children and a list of things pediatricians
can do. These include connecting with local immigrant advocacy and service groups
and with legal groups to provide medical support for immigration procedures and other
activities. For more information, email email@example.com.