Protester holding sign that reads 'Stop Separating Families'

Charles Edward Miller/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

Waves of shock and grief rock the internet over ‘tender age shelters’ at the border

One expert described the facilities as, ‘government sanctioned child abuse.’


Alex Dalbey


Posted on Jun 20, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 1:03 pm CDT

According to a report from the Associated Press, there are at least three “tender age” shelters in south Texas, for babies and young children who have been ripped from the parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Since the Trump administration announced in early May its intention to prosecute everyone who crossed the southern border, more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents there. All these children need somewhere to go, and many are being held in so-called “tender care” facilities. Doctors and lawyers who have visited the facilities describe them as “technically safe,” though they also note that the children being kept there are not emotionally well.

The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Colleen Kraft, described her experience of touring the facilities in an interview with CNN, saying, “Normally, toddlers are rambunctious and running around. We had one child just screaming and crying, and the others were really silent. And this is not normal activity or brain development with these children.” She described the child detention centers as “nothing less than government-sanctioned child abuse.”

Other experts have shared stories of the trauma migrant children face when they are torn from their parents. Tara Neubrand, a pediatric emergency physician who says she has evaluated undocumented children, shared on Facebook experiences similar to those Kraft described.

“These children, in all cases, clung so tightly, and so completely, to their foster mothers, both in the ED and at home, that they were literally unable to be put down,” she wrote. “They didn’t explore the world, they were terrified that their world would be broken for a second time. Their trauma, and the direct effect it was having on their development, was obvious.”

My child separation story:I live in Denver, CO. I'm approximately 2340km from the Mexican Border, but I grew up in…

Posted by Tara Nbrnd on Monday, June 18, 2018

Others described the trauma of any child, especially a newborn, being taken away from their parents.

Despite claims from the Trump administration that children younger than four are not being taken from parents, reports from people touring the facilities show that this is not true, and infants as young as three months old have been forcibly taken—including those where being breastfed at the time.

Titans of industry have been speaking out against the separation policies as well, with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple saying in an interview with the Irish Times, “It’s heartbreaking to see the images and hear the sounds of the kids. Kids are the most vulnerable people in any society. I think that what’s happening is inhumane, it needs to stop.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, and BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti also shared stories and denounced the policies.

Celebrities have been joining the conversation as well, some sharing their own experience of life at the age that these children are being taken from their families.

A fourth shelter is planned to open in Houston, but Mayor Sylvester Turner denounced it in a press conference on Tuesday, saying, “I do not want the city to participate in this process. I do not want our facilities and property owners to participate in this process.”

Share this article
*First Published: Jun 20, 2018, 11:46 am CDT