Protection and Advocacy for Children with Disabilities in Homestead, FL

Protection and Advocacy for Children with Disabilities in Homestead, FL


– Protecting these children
is a basis human right and it’s our obligation
as a P&A to do that. ♫ My name is Peter Sleasman, I’m an attorney with
Disability Rights Florida, I work in their Gainesville office. The federal government
is picking up children as they cross the border from mostly Central American countries, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and these are children that
are trying to migrate here to be with family members, to get jobs, to escape terrible violence
in their home countries, and what we’re doing is
that the Immigration Service is picking up the kids as
they come across the border, and when are picked up they’re being sent to shelters and facilities
that detain the children while they are here. Some of them are horribly overcrowded. The one down in Homestead, Florida has now well over 2,000
working towards 3,000 children in very overcrowded conditions where they’re really not
getting the care that they need. And even once they leave
places like Homestead, they’re being sent to
shelters, temporary shelters, where they’re living in
very restrained situations, highly monitored situations, situations where they’re
not really getting the intensity of the
mental healthcare they need to help process what they’ve been through. And in most cases the fact that they’re in a transitory setting and not receiving the care they need is actually doing more harm and exacerbating the harm
that they’ve experience in their journey over and the trauma that they’ve experienced. So the Protection and
Advocacy organizations are going in and because
they are facilities that house children with disabilities, many of these kids have manifestations of mental illness as a
result of the trauma. So as a result of that, they are part of our constituency that we need to go in and make sure that they’re getting the
appropriate care they need and not being subjected
to abuse and neglect. The children that we visited in the facilities that
we monitored in Florida range between 13 and 17 years old. So mostly teens and early teens. They, as I said, were mostly
from Central American nations. They either spoke Spanish or
spoke an indigenous language, so there’s language barriers. Most of them, as I said, have come here to escape
pretty horrific conditions in their home countries and they’re looking for a better life, which is pretty natural. So we’ve been going in to
monitoring the facilities to see if they’re getting the care and particularly the
mental health treatment that they require. And what we’ve been finding is that they’re certainly not getting the intensity of mental
healthcare they need. The counseling to help them learn to cope with the traumatic experiences
that they’ve been through. Many times counseling
takes place in conditions where it’s not private, where it’s in a large
room with other kids. In some cases kids are
getting one to one counseling with a therapist by
Skype in a crowded room where they can be overheard. I had several kids tell me that when they started
talking about details of what had happened to them and their concerns, and their feelings, that they could be
overheard by other children in the booth right next to them, and it made them extremely uncomfortable, which makes them very unlikely to open up and really talk about what’s going on, and start processing the experiences. But even more to the point is the issue that these children have
come here to join our society and they’re smart kids, they’re motivated kids, but they are kids that have been through a huge amount of trauma
in their travels here and in their country, and they’ve been damaged by that. And housing them at
these detention centers is actually making the trauma worse and actually doing harm to them. And the goal is that these kids, with the right supports
and the right care, can overcome what they’ve been through, and be wonderful productive
members of society, I’ve no doubt about that after talking to many of them. And what we need to do, and what the P&As need to do is to make sure that they get the support and the care, and the treatment they need, so that they can process and
overcome the horrible instances that they have been through, and the horrible trauma
they’ve experienced so that they can grow and prosper, and become productive
members of our society. Cause the chances are
that many, many of them are going to remain here
after their travel over, and it’s in our self interest, and in their interest to make sure that they’re healthy and well rounded, and able to be productive,
active citizens in our society. And we can do that but it takes the P&A to help make sure that that happens.

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