Concerns raised over psychological impact on separated families


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Some are raising concerns that the damage done while migrant children have been separated from their families will stick around long after they’re reunited.

For four years, Austin nonprofit Circle of Health International has been tending to mothers and children stopped at the border.

“I have been trying to get people’s attention about this story for a very long time,” said Sera Bonds, CEO and founder of the nonprofit. 

Bonds says she’s glad the country is finally listening.

“This is not new,” she said. “And there are a lot of liberals and progressives who are having a hard time digesting that information, I think. There are new pieces to it, certainly, but the shaming and the detaining is not new.”

Bonds says she hopes Americans will put politics aside and focus on what the children are going through.             

“There are stress hormones that are induced that can set off other neurological disorders, chronic health conditions, and for kids whose brains and bodies are still developing, this is really dangerous,” Bonds said.

It’s such a concern that the Texas Psychological Association spoke out on Wednesday.

“It can have all kinds of long-term effects that then, they have problems in adulthood, which also become problems for society and are costly, too,” said Texas Psychological Association board member Dr. Elisabeth Middleton. 

Middleton says undergoing trauma at such a vulnerable time in a child’s life can result in a number of serious issues.

“Sometimes, you see personality disorder, major depression, problems in relationships, not being able to keep jobs, suicidality. It can have all kinds of long-term effects,” Middleton said.

For now, volunteers for Circle of Health International are doing what they can, providing migrant children with meals, showers and medical treatment. But Bonds worries that can’t fix the worst of it.

“The trauma of the children is palatable, visible and very, very moving,” she said.

Circle of Health International hopes recent reports will draw attention to the need for support in the Rio Grande Valley, as the nonprofit currently works to raise money and awareness through its “In Her Shoes” campaign.

“It’s been hard for us to staff the clinic, very difficult to fundraise for, but the need is so great,” Bonds said.

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