The law mandates that when pediatricians see or hear about children being abused, they must report that abuse to authorities.
I am a pediatrician. I called Child Protective Services in Washington, DC to report child abuse by Trump immigration policies.
An infant was taken from a mother while breastfeeding. A parent was forced to put her terrified toddler in a car seat and watch as border guards drove away with him. Families are being told lies such as the guards are taking children to a nearby location for food, clothing, and/or a shower. Then the parents are hauled to jail with zero information about if, how, or when they will be reunified with their children.
That is child abuse.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services are perpetrating terror upon children when they forcibly remove them from their parents who are not threats to anyone’s safety or health.
We pediatricians know the psychological and physical damage caused by exposure to toxic stress.
Human brains, hormones, and entire organ systems are put in stressful survival modes during experiences endured by so many immigrant families: out-of-control gang violence, civil war, domestic abuse, and other dangerous oppression. All of that stress is compounded by the cruelty of armed government officials removing children from the one protective factor they still have: their parents.
The still-developing minds and bodies of children are particularly vulnerable, and the damage can be irreparable. Anxiety, depression, acute stress disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are just a few of the neurological and mental consequences. Other bodily consequences can include cardiovascular disease, increased risk of cancer, and exacerbations of pre-existing conditions like asthma and diabetes.
I am also reporting the child abuse to Congress and demanding an immediate halt to family separation. The Senate must pass the Keep Families Together Act and the HELP Separated Children Act without further delay. There are basic duties and responsibilities we owe vulnerable children regardless of their immigration status.
If I failed to stop child abuse, I would likely be fired from my job as a pediatrician. That is a reasonable consequence for members of Congress who refuse to help traumatized immigrant children.
By Sanjeev K. Sriram, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and host of Dr. America on We Act Radio.