The tiny feet of a barefoot child resting on a colorful play mat in a child-friendly space are visible under a red blanket. The child’s feet are covered in dirt. Some children and families crossing the U.S. border have walked for several days and have not bathed, are hungry, sick and exhausted. Save the Children is running child-friendly spaces and children’s play areas at transit shelters in New Mexico for children once they leave detention facilities. Photo credit: Caroline Trutmann Marconi/ Save the Children, Nov 2018.

Some families crossing the U.S. Border have walked for 20 days straight. Their children haven’t bathed, they’re hungry, some are sick, they haven’t had a good night’s sleep, and they haven’t played for many weeks. Basic hygiene items like soap and toothbrushes are essential not only to keeping children healthy, but to protecting their emotional well-being.

U.S. Border Crisis Children's Relief Fund
We urgently need your help to reach every last child in need. A donation to our U.S. Border Crisis Children’s Relief Fund will support our programmatic and advocacy work at the border and ensure that children at the border are being treated with care and kindness. Photo credit: Jonathan Hyams / Save the Children.

How Is Save the Children Helping Children Once they Leave Detention Centers

Since the start of 2019, more than 500,000 women, men and children have crossed the U.S. border seeking asylum from violence and trying to escape extreme poverty. The harrowing journey can take months. When tiny toddler feet can’t take another step, parents carry their children on their backs.   

The photo of the father and daughter who died trying to cross the border is a tragic reminder of the dangerous journey that families are trying to make.

Some families have walked for days, weeks and even months. Their children haven’t bathed, they’re hungry, many are sick, they haven’t had a good night’s sleep, and they haven’t played for many weeks.

The inhumane conditions we are hearing about at the child detention facility in Texas are gut-wrenching and unacceptable. All children have the right to adequate food, shelter, medical care, supervision and education – it is a matter of human decency.

“Children are being detained in deplorable conditions,” notes Jeanne-Aimee De Marrais, Senior Adviser for Domestic Emergencies with Save the Children, in a recent interview with Cheddar. “We know that the life many of the children have had has been plagued by violence and absolute poverty. They then come on a very traumatic, dangerous journey and then they cross into the U.S. with the hope of safety and protection. And the U.S. government is failing these children when they get here.”

Jeanne-Aimee continued to describe how when children are denied basic support, including basic food and hygiene, it can have a devastating, long-term effect on their mental health. From their small bodies being at greater risk of illness or harm to their dependency on routine to help them make sense of their surroundings and feel comforted, children in crisis almost always suffer the most.

While Save the Children and other nonprofits are still not permitted in these detention facilities, Save the Children is running child-friendly spaces and children’s play areas at transit shelters in New Mexico for children once they leave the detention facilities.

The programs we’re providing at these transit shelters is often the first time children have been able to play, smile, and laugh in weeks or even months. The time these children spend in our child-friendly space allows their parents to start to recover and plan for the next steps for the families.

We are also assisting partners who are providing these children and families with necessities like food, hygiene kits containing soap and toothbrushes, diapers and clothing. 

Soon, 2,000 children hygiene kits will arrive at the transit shelters from our warehouse. Soon, 1,200 stuffed toys and 2,000 books will arrive for distribution.

To date, Save the Children and Save the Children Action Network have generated more than 250,000 letters to the Administration and members of Congress, urging action to protect vulnerable children.

A donation to our U.S. Border Crisis Children’s Relief Fund will support our programmatic and advocacy work at the border and ensure that children at the border are being treated with care and kindness.

For 100 years, Save the Children has protected the world’s children from harm and ensured their rights are upheld. Through donor support, we are the only national response agency working in transit shelters focused on the unique needs of children. To learn more about our work, visit savethechildren.org/bordercrisis

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