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.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


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