The trauma will be long-lasting for kids separated at the border. Here's what you need to know.

The Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy has been horrifying.

More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents at the border — and people across the nation are outraged. The widespread response raised more than $18 million to aid separated families and even forced President Donald Trump to sign an executive order to detain families together rather than separately.

Progress is being made, but the trauma these children have undergone will have dangerous long-term consequences.

The path to reunification for these children is fraught with uncertainty. And no executive order can undo the trauma these children are experiencing right now.


Even brief separations from parents and families can leave lasting, persisting impressions on young minds. When these separations are lengthy, they cause an anxiety that puts children at risk of any number of psychological syndromes from separation anxiety to depression to post-traumatic stress disorder and beyond.

In the past several weeks, stories of separation trauma have flooded the news, and their message is clear: The horror of being torn from one's parents has lifelong effects. The granddaughter of a man who was separated from his parents at Angel Island in the 1930s wrote that her grandfather felt the pain of a 34-day separation at age 9 for his entire life. He spoke about that separation even up until to the week before his death.

Writer Dell Cameron, who was sent to foster care during a custody battle, notes that workers at such centers often have no understanding of the children they're caring for. When these kids inevitably act out as a response to their emotional stress, they are punished. "Hope is what I lost as a child. It was destroyed by the state," Cameron wrote. "Detaining children when parents love them and want them is a crime against humanity."

Even when children are reunited with their parents, their sense of safety can be forever altered.

For many years, it's been assumed that children bounce back from trauma like this fairly quickly. They may not understand it, the reasoning went, and they might even forget it. But empirical evidence has shown that to be untrue: Sudden separation can alter brain functioning.

Recent research has made it clear that the trauma of being torn away from a primary caregiver can affect not only social relationships and academic performance in childhood but also follow the individual into adulthood, altering every aspect of their existence, from their ability to connect with others to their careers.

Yoka Verdoner, a child survivor of the Holocaust, recounted her experiences of being sent into hiding during World War II and how what happened to her at age 7 affected her development permanently. "In later life, I was never able to really settle down," she wrote for The Guardian. "I lived in different countries and was successful in work, but never able to form lasting relationships with partners. I never married."

Verdoner's sister, who was 5 at the time of the separation, has suffered from a depression that Verdoner describes as "lifelong and profound." Her brother, now in his 80s, is still trying to process what happened. His anxiety has made it difficult for him to function. "He revisits the separation obsessively," Verdoner lamented. "He still writes about it in the present tense."

The American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both condemned and denounced these kinds of separations as harmful and inhumane. "Separating children from their parents contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians — protecting and promoting children’s health," reads a statement from AAP president Dr. Colleen Kraft. "We can and must do better for these families. We can and must remember that immigrant children are still children; they need our protection, not prosecution."

Children can heal from trauma — but there is no quick fix or easy solution.

Though trauma can't be undone, it can be healed. But that takes time and understanding. Children must be reunited with parents as quickly as possible and given care by practitioners who are trained and skilled at working with marginalized youth. They must be given hope — as they were when hundreds of New Yorkers showed up to support them at LaGuardia Airport.

Most importantly, we must keep our elected officials accountable for the choices they make in the near (and distant) future. The separation of children from their parents may be ending, but family internment is not a viable or humane solution. Those seeking asylum aren't criminals. Kids, especially, are not at fault.

Our voices have power. We must take action to put to end this injustice.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."