Child advocacy is everyone’s responsibility

Posted by Kristin Baird

Anyone working in healthcare should advocate for patients. Patients are vulnerable and frightened. It’s an expectation that comes with the job. When I worked as a public health nurse, I had daily opportunities to serve as a child advocate. It wasn’t uncommon for me to stick my neck out for a child who was being abused or neglected. Taking a stand took courage and was emotionally draining. There were times when I feared for my own safety and that of my family, but I spoke up anyway on behalf of children who couldn’t speak for themselves. Why? Because child advocacy is the right thing to do.

We are witnessing children being traumatized either by overt separation from parents or that their parents will be deported. It’s important to remember they are seeking asylum from horrible living situations. I take this very personally because my own son-in-law came to America seeking political asylum from a violent situation in Uganda under Idi Amin.

At age seven, he was shot in the leg while escaping the country with his father at age seven. Today, he is a citizen of the United States. He makes significant contributions to the world caring for elderly and disabled, and has been for more than 20 years. Our community – our country is better for having opened our arms to him. This isn’t a political debate about immigration or the path to citizenship, but rather, a moral discussion about the fact that that seven year old wasn’t a criminal. He was terrified, and searching for a safe environment.

What is the Damage?

I wonder what long term emotional damage is done at the hand of our own government. Even though the separation at the borders has stopped. Thousands remain separated. I don’t normally get political in this blog, but like every other phase of my professional life, I feel I must speak out for children. We must be advocates and insist on humane treatment both in our professional lives and as citizens.

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