The Government is a Poor Substitute for Family

I Was in Foster Care. Family Separation Isn’t Just a Problem at the Border

Children and workers are seen at a tent encampment recently built near the Tornillo Port of Entry on June 19, 2018 in Tornillo, Texas. The Trump administration is using the Tornillo tent facility to house immigrant children separated from their parents after they were caught entering the U.S. under the administration's zero tolerance policy. Joe Raedle—Getty Images
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The federal government is warehousing thousands of migrant children in teeming, cold facilities, where workers are prohibited from hugging not only teenagers, for whom these shelters were originally designed, but also the infants who arrived more recently at their doorstep. The kids at these shelters line up for everything. They mop bathrooms and make their beds according to strict rules. They are not allowed to run.

The way these children have been treated exemplifies a fundamental truth with broader implications worth confronting before the spotlight fully fades: the government is a lousy parent.

By design, government is impersonal. It adheres strictly to established rules and procedures, a necessity for agencies dealing with the public on a massive scale. Unlike a human parent, the government cannot love and pay close attention to each of the many children in its care, nor can it swiftly bend its rules to meet the unique and evolving needs of each child. Instead, government cares for children procedurally— all too often treating them like interchangeable widgets on a massive conveyer belt, mechanically transporting them between one-size-fits-all foster care placements, processes and services…




Lachman, who was a domestic policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, is the founder and executive director of Foster America.



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