The following letter was submitted to the Columbus Dispatch earlier this week. While policy has been reversed, the message is still relevant and significant.
For the past 15 years, I have been the Executive Director of Huckleberry House. Huckleberry House provides services including shelter and transitional living housing to homeless and runaway youth. During my time here I have learned this about children in shelters: no matter how great your shelter is, and Huck House is a great shelter, children want and need their families.
In every other aspect of our country’s policies and values, we affirm that families are the best way to care for children. We do this because we know that children need the love, guidance and support of committed adults if they are to thrive as adults. We also know that when a family can’t care for their children, the best second option is a foster family. Yes, it is true that families aren’t always perfect, but they are the best option for raising children.
We must remain vigilant in upholding a commitment to families.
If we think there will be no lingering affects to these children, we are lying to ourselves. Even a cursory review of research and training for foster and adoption programs reveals that we know a great deal about what happens to children in both the short and long run. We know that the grief is deep and profound, we know that separation can affect the cognitive and social development of children, and we know that childhood trauma leads to chronic health issues. If you want to read about this for yourself, you can go to the Federal Department of Health and Human Services webpage.
So, please score your political points without harming these children. Caring for and raising children is a privilege. We used to know that.
Executive Director, Huckleberry House