Children Separated from their Parents

My title as an extension specialist in family and consumer sciences (the old “home-ec”) at Kansas State University, means that I support, academically and programmatically, county extension agents on ways to reach under-served audiences in a region of Kansas marked by four counties that are Minority-majorities.

As a background note, for those of you who don’t know about Cooperative Extension, it was an act of Congress in 1914, called the Smith-Lever act.  The idea was that the Land Grant university would put educators in counties to address anything to do with families.   The concept of “extending” the university’s research and academic resources into communities was and continues to be a way to improve the lives of individuals and families.  Extension is alive and well, and we address many topics in Family and Consumer Sciences.  We offer educational topics addressing aging, family systems, financial management, food safety, natural resource management, health/well-being,  and other essential living skills.

So, we, extension specialists, were asked, “How can extension address the issue of children and parents being separated at the borders?”  The conversation ended with, “Unfortunately, we don’t have that capacity.”   At the risk of touching on a “hot” political subject, I beg to differ.

As sentient human beings, we have the capacity to empathize!  We have the capacity to care.  As human development experts, as in my professional life, we have the capacity to understand what a violent separation of a child from his or her parents might mean for that child’s development.  We now know that these children who are separated from their parents are not living in ideal conditions. These are conditions that we, as parents, would never want for our children!

It is here that I might suggest that you, gentle readers, familiarize yourself with ACES, Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.  The research was organized by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  To determine an ACE score, a questionnaire asks questions about abuse, abandonment, unloving environments, substance abuse, etc.,  during the first 18 years of life, the developmental years.  A score of “10” may indicate disrupted neuro-development and/or social emotional cognitive impairment.  What does that mean? A life of fighting inner “demons”.  Do you know anyone fighting those inner demons?

Back to the separated children, may we ask ourselves, in terms of adverse childhood experiences, “What does this mean for the children separated from their parents?”  Some may say, “This is what happens when the parents break the laws!”  I’ve actually heard this.  Might we see these dangerous migrations as acts of love?  Might we see these parents, risking their lives looking for improved living conditions, using what they have (guts) to make better lives for their children?  That is how I see it.  I live and work among many families who have gone through the same process to seek improved living conditions.  They happily live and work in my community contributing positive human capital resources to the workforce and sharing their food, cultures, and capacity for joy.

It is here that I will, shamelessly, promote a recent publication of mine.  It’s called Build Intercultural Relationships for Better Understanding of Your Neighbor.  It can be found here: https://www.bookstore.ksre.k-state.edu/pubs/MF3340.pdf

Thank you for reading.  I look forward to your comments, and I don’t expect that all comments will be positive.  That is the risk I take for putting forth my opinions.  However, there is no need to be nasty.  Please remember that.