The ongoing situation at the southern U.S. border, where families illegally entering the country are being separated, with roughly 2,000 kids removed from their parents, continues to dominate discussions and headlines. Last weekend, protests were held in dozens of U.S. cities. Activists want ICE shut down and done away with, with “OccupyICE” groups protesting outside several regional ICE offices, temporarily closing some.
Those 2,000 kids are getting a lot of attention.
Know who else are getting separated from parents? Children of divorce. According to 2016 CDC statistics, there were over 827,000 divorces in the United States (not including CA, GA, HI, IN, MN and NM. Those states didn’t report their divorce stats for some reason). That comes to over 2,200 divorces a day, nearly 100 per hour. Not every divorced couple had children, of course. In 2012, it was estimated that the divorce rate among couples with children was 40% lower than the divorce rate of childless couples. Half of US children will witness their parents’ divorce, and half of those kids will see the dissolution of their parents’ second marriage.
So how many kids a year are being separated from their parents via divorce? I couldn’t find any numbers, but I’ll venture a wildass guess and say…way more than 2,000.
Yet activists aren’t advocating for them by holding protests, or shutting down offices, or demanding no-fault divorce laws get abrogated or amended. Why? Well, value-signaling is easy, and getting involved with families is hard and uncomfortable. “Increasing awareness” doesn’t cost anything, beyond personal time, some white cardboard, and a few Sharpie markers. Once the passion cools, it’s off to the next Worst Crisis Ever. In addition, our culture doesn’t consider divorce an evil hardly at all. In fact, it celebrates it with Divorce Parties, handbooks, and greeting cards. Just another lifestyle choice. Not happy? Walk out and start over. No big deal.
Meanwhile, the kids suffer. Immensely. Platitudes ranging from “Kids are resilient” to “They’ll be better off this way” are mostly lies repeated often enough with the hope they become truth. Divorce’s damaging impact on children is quantifiable – physically, emotionally, and intellectually. My maternal grandparents divorced in the mid 1940’s, and to this day, my mom remembers the pain, trauma, and anger. At 87, she’s over it, but that wound never totally heals. We kid ourselves thinking today’s children won’t carry their wounds for a lifetime.
Yes, some divorces are necessary due to dangerous, violent circumstances, where safety is at stake. But those are the exceptions that prove the rule – and the rule is, most divorces are due to ‘irreconcilable differences’, the basis for no-fault divorce in the first place.
Similarly, some family separations at the border are done to protect the children – from gangs, from human traffickers, from modern slave trades. We pray those are the exception and not the rule.
No one’s saying those 2,000 children aren’t experiencing trauma, depression, and a host of other psychological harms. They most certainly are. It’s heartbreaking to see them suffer, due to both adults illegally bringing them into the country, either as their parents or posing as such, and then getting caught up in a system that seems mismanaged at best, and malicious at worst. I’d be remiss to neglect the many volunteers at the border, attempting to directly help – not by waving signs, or blocking roads and office entrances, but by doing something productive, such as providing legal aid. Unfortunately, all involved are trapped in a bureaucratic quagmire, vacillating between the extremes when it comes to solving this problem, because both major parties, when you come right down to it, see compromise as political weakness more than virtuous behavior.
But U.S. children get separated from their parents thousands of times per week. Every week, every year. Where are their advocates? Who speaks for them? To make a long-lasting, effective difference, advocate for permanent, lifelong marriage among your families, within your neighborhoods and communities, and at your parishes. If you’re claiming to be “for the children”, start there.
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