The research is clear on the psychological and physical damage these practices inflict: Parent-child separations lead to increased anxiety and depression, lower IQs, and post-traumatic stress disorder in children.
At least in theory, the federal government agrees. In an interview last year in The Chronicle of Social Change, Jerry Milner, associate commissioner of the Children’s Bureau, rightly said: “We should consciously avoid inflicting psychological and emotional damage to children in our efforts to achieve physical safety” by protecting “the integrity of the parent-child relationship whenever possible.”
Kodi Baugham and Nico’lee Biddle, leaders in FosterClub, a national network for youth in foster care, said it’s impossible to know whether having their children removed will be the “rock bottom” that parents need to turn around their addiction or an overwhelming pain that makes it even harder for them to recover. For Baugham’s mother, the threat of having her parental rights terminated drove her to sobriety. For Biddle, involvement with the system—and the experience of being treated like “worthless people”—deepened her parents’ addiction and ultimately hastened their drug-related deaths. But it’s the trauma of separation to children, said Baugham and Biddle, that leads FosterClub to advocate for helping families stay together whenever possible.
“We know how troubling from a brain-science perspective it is if bonding doesn’t happen,” said Alise Hegle, advocacy lead of the Children’s Home Society of Washington. She also said that parents’ bonds to their kids are often the most important driver of sobriety.
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