what do you think should happen?

Children’s responses to family separation at the border

July 7, 2019

Note: I tend to use the word “should” very cautiously, more often choosing “could” as a way to remain open. However on this morning, it felt cathartic to ask these children, wise simply by being children, “What do you think should happen?” These children can lead us with their advice, their confusion, their expectations of the adults, their straight backed knowing.

Using excerpts of quotes from children currently being held in US detention centers, a group of children ages 3-12 from New Creation Fellowship Church were given basic scenarios and asked for solutions/responses.

With the quotes in hand, the group was told that there are babies, children and teenagers who have been separated from their parents/guardians at the Mexico/United States border and are being held in detention centers. Excerpts from some of the quotes were reframed into simple questions. After responses were given, the complete quotes were shared.


What do you think should happen if children come with their own clothing?

Nothing. Unless they are messy, then wash them and give them back.


What do you think should happen if there is a 12 year old who cries a lot?

Comfort him, ask him his mom’s phone or address. If he doesn’t know, ask him again and again. But do not call 911 because that would make him more scared. Keep the stress as low as you can. Comfort him and give him chocolate.


What do you think should happen if someone has to go to the bathroom?

They should be able to go right away in a bathroom with a toilet with privacy. They should get help if they are little and need help.


What do you think should happen if there is a baby who is sick, has a fever and can’t open her eyes?

She should already be at the doctor. Don’t say you’ll take her “right away” because that means you have time to think about it. So if you aren’t already at the doctor, then go urgently to the hospital, see a doctor and let her sleep in a crib-bed.


What do you think should happen if a baby soiled his clothes because the poop came out of his diaper?

Wash the soiled clothes, wipe the baby’s bottom and give the mom new clothes for the baby. Why is this a question it’s so obvious and normal. Babies do this all the time.


What do you think should happen with the lights when they sleep?

Turn the lights off a little bit so they know it is night time. Workers should walk quietly and say “shhh, shhh, shhh” to anyone crying.


What do you think should happen if 20 teenagers with babies and young children are together?

Nothing because it shouldn’t happen unless they are there because it’s a big family reunion or a kids camp. But even at a kids camp they wouldn’t have all the ages together because kids need different things at different ages. So, there isn’t a good way to do this unless you have a lot of areas and teachers. You need lots of different food and outdoor activities. And for sure regular contact with the parents so everyone knows that everyone is okay.


Who do you think should hear these things?

The people working with the children in the detention centers, to the people working in offices there, to the people making the laws, to the people who don’t care, to the people in the White House, including the president in case he wants to change his mind.

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