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10 powerful ways we can help immigrant children separated from their parents

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[Update: If you're reading this in June 2019, there is a current article here.]

Their parents couldn't hear their cries, but now, America has. On Monday Propublica released heart-wrenching audio reportedly recorded inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility, which captured the cries of young children separated from their parents after coming to the United States from Central America. The children are believed to be between 4 and 10 years old, and their desperate sobs are harrowing.

The haunting audio documents a practice a majority of Americans are against. A recent poll by CBS News found 67% of Americans say it's unacceptable to separate children from their parents after they cross the border.

Across the country mothers and fathers hear the voices of their own children in those of the immigrant children on the recording, and so many are asking each other 'what can we do?'

It may seem like an overwhelming situation, but there are powerful actions any parent can take to create change for the children who are crying for their parents in a scary new place. We can't hug them and hold them close, or reunite them with their moms and dads right now, but we can do the following:

1. Donate to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)

A non-profit that aims to reunite families and help kids feel safe, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) needs funds to fulfil its mission. The Texas-based nonprofit aims to "directly fund the bond necessary to get parents out of detention and reunited with their children while awaiting court proceedings" and "ensure legal representation for EVERY child in Texas' immigration courts."

2. Call your representatives

As much as many parents wish we could tear down those chain link walls and put babies back with their mothers, we, as individuals, don't have the power to do that or to stop it from happening in the future. The U.S. government does have that power though, and the American people have the power to elect them. You can call your senator and let them know that you will not stand for this.

If you don't know what number to call, you can punch your zip code into the ACLU's website and it will route your call to the appropriate representative. If you don't know what to say, the ACLU has prepared a script. Just say hello to the congressional staffer who picks up the phone and tell then you want to see

3. Encourage others to call their representatives

Tell your friends that you've made that call and ask them to call, too. A lot of people have never called a politician's office before, so let those in your circle know about how the ACLU will route their call and pass on the short script for those who get flustered on the phone.

4. Find a local protest

When we stand together our voices are amplified. If you're looking to join in a protest of immigrant family separation policies, check out Families Belong Together. The organization has created a growing list of rallies and vigils in support of the families.

5. Organize your own protest

If there is no protest or rally organized in your area, you may want to organize your own. Father-of-two Ron Piovesan organized a protest in the Bay Area. "There's a lot of people who are very angry with what's going on; they're feeling helpless," he told NBC of his Father's Day protest.

According to NBC, "Piovesan passed out slips of paper encouraging people to take action, to call their representatives and donate to legal aid groups trying to help immigrant detainees."

The Community Toolbox at the University of Kansas offers an in-depth guide to planning a public demonstration. The guide's authors note the most important part of organizing a planned rally, vigil, march or sit-in is planning. Call your City Hall to find out if you need permits for the space you plan to use and let the local police know where and for how long you will be protesting.

Communicating with your fellow protesters is also important. Start by inviting anyone you think may share your passion for reuniting children with their parents and stopping future separations. Then figure out an effective communication system, like a group text or Facebook group, to keep participants in the loop and allow you to delegate responsibilities and coordinate times.

If you're trying to reach legislators, consider protesting outside the State House, but a protest in your own neighbourhood can also be of service by educating the public. Be prepared to give people practical information, like the ACLU phone script, and the number for your local representative. Picket signs let people know that this isn't just a gathering, it's a protest, so bust out the Sharpies and cardboard and get creative.

6. Donate to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

You may have seen mom-of-two Chrissy Teigen tweeting about this recently. She and husband John Legend called for concerned fellow parents to donate to the organization which is raising money to defend asylum-seeking immigrant parents who've been separated from their children.

7. Volunteer

If you've got experience in immigration law of translation, organizations like the Texas Civil Rights Project can put you to work in the fight to reunite parents and children. They are reportedly in need of translators who speak "Spanish, Mam, Q'eqchi' or K'iche'" and people with have paralegal or legal assistant experience in McAllen, TX.

8. Donate to Together Rising

Motherly previously reported on the efforts of "Love Warrior" author Glennon Doyle and her charity, Together Rising, in raising funds to help these children get the legal support they need. The organization has already "funded the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project for an angel team of four lawyers and 3 legal assistants to represent children detained in Arizona detention centers and their families; and the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights in order to cover the costs of a lawyer and social worker who will be operating around the country and on the border to provide advocacy and healing to unaccompanied, detained children."

Now, Together Rising is helping other organizations dedicated to helping these kids, including Kids In Need of Defence and RAICES.

9. Keep talking about it

According to CBS News, 90% of Democrats polled find the practice of separating kids and families to be unacceptable. Republicans are "more divided" with 39% saying it's unacceptable and 1 in 5 saying they have not heard enough about it to say either way. If someone in your circle hasn't heard about this, tell them, and tell them that you're not standing for it.

10. Teach your children empathy

With this story pouring out of every smartphone, television and radio in our country, our children may be worried about the idea that kids are being taken from their parents. Parents may need to reassure their kids that they are safe, but there are other topics of conversation that can help our kids keep future children safe. By talking about empathy and kindness with our kids we can raise kind, empathic people who won't let this happen to the next generation's children.


[Update: June 20, 2018, adding additional links to charitable organizations]

Additional organizations currently accepting donations:

American Immigration Council: Tells Motherly it has "staff on the ground at the Dilley, Texas family detention center helping families, and we are documenting the terrible conditions of detention and bringing lawsuits to challenge them." Provides pro-bono lawyers to people in detention through the Immigration Justice Campaign.

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project: Provides "emergency legal aid to refugee families".

Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services: Provides "free and low cost immigration services".

Justice for Our Neighbors: Provides low income families with "affordable, high quality immigration legal services".

Kids In Need of Defense: According to its website, KIND "partners with major law firms, corporations, law schools, and bar associations to create a nationwide pro bono network to represent unaccompanied children through their immigration proceedings."

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center: States it is "dedicated to serving the legal needs of low income immigrants, including refugees, victims of crime, and families seeking reunification."

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: The faith-based organization "works with refugees, children, and migrants to ensure they are protected and welcomed into local communities throughout the United States."

South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR): A joint project of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, ProBAR "is a national effort to provide pro bono legal services to asylum seekers detained in South Texas by the United States government. "

The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights: Provides independent Child Advocates to stand up for unaccompanied immigrant children and "champion the child's best interests".

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The holidays are quickly on their way, and while there are tons of ways to celebrate, you should feel free to get a little creative with it and make your own traditions (there's no law requiring you to dress everyone in matching red velvet jumpers to sit on Santa's lap). So instead of battling between getting the perfect picture and your baby's natural urge to wiggle, harness the power of those inevitable Hallmark moments—the first giggle, the budding personality, the two-toothed grin—to make your December super special.

Here are six new traditions you can start to meet your little one where they are and celebrate joy in this season—without all the stress.

1. Make DIY ornaments

Decorating the tree is a beloved tradition, and having a little one is all the more reason to get into the spirit of it. Get the baby—and the rest of the family—involved in the fun by letting everyone color or paint on an unbreakable, homemade ornament and hang them towards the bottom of the tree. And sure, your infant may not create any masterpieces at this age, but not only will the precious family heirlooms stay higher up (read: away from tiny hands), you'll also be creating keepsakes to build on for years to come.

2. Bring a holiday scene to life

Connecting your children to the spirit of the season is an important part of teaching them what it's all about, but it's not always so easy to do through books and stories alone. Instead, offer them the chance to live it out! Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or another significant holiday, playing pretend is the ideal way to teach and have fun along the way for everyone in the family. Use a kid-friendly nativity book as a guide or make your own menorah as you explore the story of the oil that burned for 8 nights—whatever your religion, there's an important tale to tell.

3. Make video cards

There is joy in receiving physical mail and holiday cards are a wonderful way to make your loved ones feel special. But don't stop there! Record a video greeting to send to your nearest and dearest to keep even the most far-away relatives feel like they're right there with you. Everyone will love seeing the baby's latest milestones in live-action, and it's a great way to spread the season's warmest greetings.

4. Start a time capsule box

Making (and maintaining) a baby book is a fabulous idea, but sometimes keeping it up-to-date gets lost in the shuffle of parenthood. Use the holiday season as a time to reconnect with all those beloved memories for your kiddo by starting an annual time capsule box: Each year, have all members of the family add one item of their choosing (or your choosing, depending on age) to the box and label it with a little note. Things can range from a favorite holiday-themed blanket or toy to something they no longer need but aren't ready to throw away.

5. Begin a culinary tradition

Nothing says "cozy" like a yummy-smelling kitchen filled with laughter. While your tot may still be too small to really help in the kitchen, it's never too early to kickstart their love of cooking. Pick a recipe you'll make every year and get them "involved" with a spoon and an empty mixing bowl. You'll get to enjoy the fruits of your labor together and it'll help encourage them to cook with you more year-round, too.

6. Play king for a day

We all know that as babies grow up—independence is a priority, no matter how ready for it we really are. This year, give them the gift of being in charge. By allowing your little one to eat what they want, wear what they pick (a sparkly tutu? No problem. An adorable Christmas cape? Great!) and play with what they prefer, you'll be empowering them with a sense of self and giving yourself the gift of hilarious photo ops for years to come.

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As an ESPN anchor Kevin Negandhi talks to a lot of pro athletes. But as a parent he knows that sometimes raising kids is as hard as training for the big leagues (seriously, science proves that kids energy levels surpass endurance athletes' and parents are running after those kids).

Negandhi knows what it's like to be face-to-face with athletes that so many people idolize, but he also knows that a parent can be more influential than any big league idol, and that's why he's working with Dove Men+Care SPORTCARE to put real dads in the spotlight.

"We have a platform to showcase what they do as everyday athletes, but also as everyday men, everyday fathers," says Negandhi, who has three kids himself. He tells Motherly he tries to make sure he's active with his kids—playing sports with them so that they understand the importance of staying active—but also staying active with the kids when the touch football ends and the real parenting endurance test begins. Like many modern fathers, Negandhi is committed to doing more childcare than his own father did.

"My mom did everything in our house," he tells Motherly. "My dad worked, but my mom worked as well. And she did everything. She raised us. But at the same time she showed me another side. And many times growing up I said, 'How can I be different than my father?'"

Being involved with his kids and doing more of the unpaid work in his household than his own dad did is how Negandhi is doing it, and he's taking time to showcase three fellow dads who—while sharing their names with professional athletes—certainly don't get as much credit as the pros.

That is actually something of a problem in media right now. According to a recent survey by Dove Men+Care, 70% of men wish regular guys who are athletes (but not professionals) got more attention in sports media. Because as much as winning the Superbowl or making it to the major leagues should be celebrated, being a dad who is physically active and active in raising his kids should be celebrated, too.

Research shows that when kids grow up seeing dads exercise they are healthier, and while these three men happen to share their names with famous athletes, they don't get the same glory. So Negandhi and Dove Men+Care are giving these hard working dads some recognition.

Alvin Suarez

Alvin Suarez is teaching his kids that having a disability doesn't disqualify you from being an athlete. As a visually-impaired person, Alvin isn't the standard athlete we see represented in media. He plays Goalball, a sport that relies on keen ear-hand coordination, and he is certainly a keen father, chasing after his twin girls.

Alvin says the difference between sports and fatherhood is that you can train for sports, while parenthood takes you by surprise. "I try to be a good role model for my daughters and I want everyone to know that everyone has potential and that there is no such thing as a nobody."

Alvin has won championships as a Goalball player, but says holding his daughters in his arms for the first time was like winning a medal but multiplied by a million.

Sean Williams

Sean Williams is committed to his community and his kids. He uses physical fitness to connect with his kids and to, literally, save lives. A volunteer firefighter, Sean keeps fit so that he can use his body and energy to maximum impact. He isn't just changing the lives of people impacted by fires, but also his fellow dads.

The founder of The Dad Gang, an organization committed to celebrating and telling the real story of black fatherhood, Sean has created a space for dads to connect with their children and each other while staying active.

"One of the challenges we put out on social media is where you do pushups with our kids on our backs and that merges fatherhood and fitness," he explains.

If there was a Super Bowl for community service, Sean would be wearing the ring.

Chris Paul

A Marine Corps veteran, Chris needs a ton of energy to keep up with his blended family. It started out as an "all-girl Brady Bunch" he explains, as his wife and he had six daughters between them, but they've since added a boy to the family which now included seven kids. .

He's basically got his own sports team at home so it makes sense that Chris is super committed to staying fit for them. The Marine turned realtor takes time to help other dads in his community stay fit and knows when to draw boundaries to protect his time with his kids.

He's got some good endurance, but he's not going to work 15 hours a day when his kids are waiting at home for him. Chris says in former times dads were often passive figures in their kids' lives as the child rearing was done by others.

Like the other men, he's changing that. "I'm an active participant and I want to make sure that I can contribute to my children's lives."

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Back in 2017 when we learned Beyoncé was starring in a new remake of The Lion King I was thrilled. My son (my only child) was almost 2 years old and I told my partner I wanted The Lion King to be our son's first movie theatre experience. Going to see the original Lion King in a movie theatre was a big deal to me as a kid and I wanted to recreate that experience for my son.

Flash forward to July 2019 and The Lion King is in theaters—but my son and I are not. Turns out I really overestimated how long 3-year-olds can sit still. While my son loves watching 1994's Lion King at home (he always stands on the couch and lifts his stuffed animals to the sky during "Circle of Life") he's just not quite subdued enough for the cinema yet.

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So we have been waiting to see The Lion King at home, and now we finally can! October 11 marks the film's digital home video release, and the Blu-ray hits stores on October 22.

Rob Legato, a VFX supervisor on the film, tells Motherly that "the visuals are so well preserved on 4K and newer television sets that it is literally the mini theatre experience and you're not missing much by seeing it at home."

Basically, the digital version is going to be just as awesome as seeing it in theaters, except that we will be able to pause for potty breaks and my kiddo can stand on his seat pretending to be Rafiki without blocking anyone's view.

The movie is, of course, incredible, but so are the animals it's based on. Screening the movie at home is an amazing way to start conversations with your kids about the various animals in the film as they are of course more similar to the real animals they are based on then their animated counterparts were in 1994.

The filmmakers went to Africa to research the animals they were bringing to life and they also spent a ton of time at the Harambe Wildlife Reserve inside Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida watching various species to try to make their movements as realistic as possible. There, 34 species live on 110 acres and the filmmakers got to watch them closely, making this film incredibly detailed.

Some of the animal experts who work with these animals on a daily basis say that when they watch The Lion King, they can actually tell which characters are based on which of the animals they know in real life.

"This film presented a really wonderful and unique opportunity to bring the production crew to the animals here at Disney's Animal Kingdom. They spent about 6 weeks here collecting reference footage of the animals here and we partnered really closely with the animal care teams at Disney's Animal Kingdom to make sure that all of the filming that we were doing, the impact to the animals was minimized," says Jon Ross of Disney's Animals in TV and Film department

The film crew watched the animals from a distance, which is something families can also do at Disney's Animal Kingdom by taking the Kilimanjaro Safari or staying in Jambo House at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where giraffes and other animals can be seen right from hotel balconies.

But the work Disney is doing with the animals is more than a tourist attraction. The company is serious about conservation and protecting the animal species featured in the park and in its films. "Tied to the Lion King film we launched the Protect the Pride initiative," Claire Martin of Disney's Conservation & Partnerships team tells Motherly. "We realized that we'd lost half of the world's lions since the first Lion King film debuted and we want to turn that around, so we're working with the Wildlife Conservation Network's Lion Recovery Fund to help their vision to double the amount of lions in the wild by 2050," she explains.

Marin suggests that parents watching The Lion King with their kids can use the film to talk to their children about conservation issues and continue the education long after the end credits roll. "We encourage people to learn more, visit the website, get involved and learn more about how they can make an impact on lions and other wildlife across Africa," says Martin.

Through the website, parents can even download an activity packet (you can print it and make your kids a cool book) with all kinds of information and cool activities and to help kids feed their lion obsession in an educational way even when screen time is over.

The Lion King is available to stream now and will be on Blu-ray October 22 (with even more educational features about the animals!)

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Sometimes data tells you very important information you need to live your life. Sometimes it's just a curiosity. When it comes to the many analyses people have done on baby name popularity through the years, we're kind of on the fence. On the one hand, if you're trying to look for what to name your unborn child, it's useful to know just how many other kids in the playground are going to look up when you yell out, "Onyx, don't eat that!"

A new study just revealed the most popular gender-neutral baby name since 1910:

  • Casey has been the No.1 unisex name in the most states for the most years, popping in and out of popularity since the 1960s
  • Riley and Jessie follow close behind
  • In recent decades the most popular gender-neutral names also include: Jamie, Jackie, Taylor, Hayden, Finley and Charlie

This comes from the enterprising people at the online loan company NetCredit, who decided to have some data-visualization fun with baby name statistics, and the results are pretty cool to look at. Plus, they might reveal something surprising about parenting trends and gender norms.

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While gender-neutral names went up 88% from 1985 to 2015, choosing a gender-neutral baby name is not some millennial thing. They've been around for a long time.

What NetCredit did was look at the Social Security Administration's list of baby name popularity by state, and then found out the top gender-neutral baby names for every year since 1910.

Watch the animated results of NetCredit's project below:



NetCredit conducted one more little experiment with this information. They asked two sketch artists to come up with illustrations of Caseys, Rileys and Jessies. It turns out, no matter how neutral you think a name is, people will usually form ideas of a person's identity in their heads, based on other people they've met before, as well as famous and historical holders of those names.

This is what one of the sketch artists, Jon Allen, sees when he hears the name "Casey." He knew a couple of Caseys when he was growing up and that influenced his portrait.

It seems there are always going to be extra factors influencing how people perceive your child's name, but it goes the other way, too. Your child may have such an impact on someone that decades from now, when someone hears the name you picked, their mind's eye will show them the child you raised, not necessarily a particular gender. In 2019, names aren't defined as belonging to boys or girls, but rather by the individuals we give them to.

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When dads take paternity leave, the whole family benefits. Researchers know this and so do a growing number of families. Unfortunately, cultural norms often prevent fathers from taking time to be with their newborn babies. Companies don't always offer paid parental leave to men, and even when they do, some men don't feel they can justify taking it. But if we want fathers to be equal parents, they need an equal opportunity to parent in those early weeks and months.

That's why we love to see high-profile fathers talking about paternity leave. By showing the world that they're playing this important role in raising their children, they can change attitudes everywhere.

From tech founders to athletes to musicians, these fathers understand the value of paternity leave:

1. Daniel Murphy

Murphy was an infielder for the New York Mets in 2014 when his wife gave birth to their son Noah by C-section just before the first game of the season. He flew to Florida to be with his family, and was actually criticized by some for missing two games.

"My wife and I discussed it, and we felt the best thing for our family was for me to try to stay for an extra day— that being Wednesday—due to the fact that she can't travel for two weeks," Murphy told WFAN at the time. "I can only speak from my experience—a father seeing his wife—she was completely finished. I mean, she was done. She had surgery and she was wiped. Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off. ... It felt, for us, like the right decision to make."

2. Alexis Ohanian

Before his daughter Olympia was born, the Reddit co-founder announced his plan to take six weeks off to care for her. But when wife Serena Williams suffered life-threatening complications during childbirth, Ohanian changed his plans and took 16 weeks off—the full amount allowed at Reddit.

Two years later, he wrote about how important that time off was for him and his family in an essay for the New York Times.

"Spending a big chunk of time with Olympia when she was a newborn gave me confidence that I could figure this whole parenting thing out," he wrote. "Taking leave also set me off on the right foot for sharing parental responsibilities. Two years later, there is no stigma in our house about me changing diapers, feeding Olympia, doing her hair or anything else I might need to do in a pinch. They're all just dad things (not 'babysitter' things—I hate it when people refer to dads spending time with their kids as babysitting)."

3. Mark Zuckerberg 

Facebook offers four months of paternity leave to employees, and its founder wasn't about to skip out on the opportunity (though he didn't take all four months). He took two months off when daughter Max was born in 2015. In 2017, when wife Priscilla gave birth to their second daughter August, Zuckerberg split his leave, taking one month off when she was born and another a few months later.

"At Facebook, we offer four months of maternity and paternity leave because studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, it's good for the entire family," he wrote on Facebook at the time. "And I'm pretty sure the office will still be standing when I get back."

4. Prince Harry 

In the U.K., the standard paternity leave is two weeks, which is what Prince William took with his first two children, George and Charlotte. (Poor Louis got the third-child treatment when his dad went back to work two days after he was born.)

When Meghan Markle gave birth to baby Archie in May, Harry was widely expected to take time off as well. Much to everyone's surprise, he appeared at an official engagement just three days later. It turns out the Duke of Sussex decided to have a partial leave, appearing at just one event a week for the first month of his son's life.

5. Chance The Rapper 

After the birth of his second daughter, Marli, in September, Chance the Rapper took to Instagram to announce that he had decided to postpone his tour to stay home with his wife and daughters.

"When Kensli was born, I went on tour 2 weeks later and missed some of the most important milestones in her life, but more importantly I was absent when her mother needed me the most," he wrote of his first daughter. "At this point as a husband and father of two I realize that I can't make that mistake again. I need to be as helpful and available as possible to my wife in these early months of raising Kensli and Marli."

6. Jalen Ramsey 

When the Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback took paternity leave in September for the birth of his daughter in Nashville, things were complicated, to say the least. Ramsey had already requested to be traded to another team, so many saw paternity leave as some kind of excuse not to play.

"Months ago in the offseason, Jalen notified me that he was expecting the birth of his second child in late September," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone announced. "We spoke about this recently and again today after practice and decided it was best for Jalen to fly to Nashville tonight after meetings to be with his family during the birth of their daughter. He will return to the team when he's ready, and we will provide an update at that time."

Critics and commenters made this about everything but the baby, but it when dads take paternity leave it's not because they want to upset their bosses. It's because they want to bond with their babies. Can't Ramsey's decision to take paternity leave just be respected as that?

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