I am a children’s social worker and have several years of emergency response experience for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. Our American values of justice and compassion ought to guide each of us as adults — whether a parent or not – to help kids who are in danger, regardless of economic or immigrant status.
But everyone from pundits to politicians and policymakers are failing these tens of thousands of child refugees who have fled trafficking, violence, and torture in their countries of origin. While the adults bicker, these children in trauma suffer. They need our help. That is why I went to talk to the Los Angeles youth who are fasting. They have shown tremendous courage, maturity, and wisdom. Their fast symbolizes the kind of leadership they want to see. The kind of just and humane America we ought to be. I visited with the fasters with other social workers. We asked these extraordinarily wise young fasters what they thought we could do to help. They asked us, as front-line workers trained to triage and treating children in trauma, to insist to federal and local authorities that we visit the young children who have braved further danger and treachery to reach safety. We are uniquely qualified to respond to the urgent-care needs of these young victims. Social workers like me stand ready — and above the fray — to coordinate with various agencies so that we have resources to continue to protect exploited and abused children here in Los Angeles AND are properly equipped and prepared to serve as front line responders to this humanitarian crisis. These little boys and girls are frightened and alone. It is outrageous and inappropriate to expect border patrol and police to conduct intake and assessments. These kids need trained caseworkers who can earn their trust, speak their language, and learn what abuse they have endured. Children in-crisis do not have time to wait for our nation’s legal and immigration policies to be perfected, but they can get the emergency treatment they need if social workers are empowered to step in. We applaud these LA youth for injecting such clarity into this humanitarian challenge. We cannot fail them, and we cannot traumatize these refugee children any further. As Los Angeles County social workers, we stand ready to continue our profession and our union’s tradition of standing up for the safety of kids, no matter what.
– Almira GarzaChildren’s Social WorkerLA County