All Posts By

Nicholas Evans

Addressing Family Separation

As a father of two young children I’ve found the images of children separated from their parents at our U.S. southern border particularly painful to see, as I know parents all over the world have too.

Hopeland was created expressly to advocate for the innate value a safe, loving family can provide a child and to find better ways to keep children in families. It must be clear to anyone looking at these images that there has to be better ways to care for these children.

When millions of children live without families around the world, it is our responsibility to fight for these children, ensuring that they too can one day have a family to call their own. That’s why our first campaign was aimed to ensure ‘All Children Count’ – because it doesn’t matter what a child’s upbringing is; she will always deserve nothing less than an environment where she can be loved, and nurtured.

The more than 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents couldn’t be any further from their loving family and seeing the distressing images reminds me why I come in every day to work hard so that all children can have the upbringing that will let them thrive.

Anyone looking at the images of children sleeping on thin mattresses, under foil blankets, in hastily adapted facilities can imagine the distress this causes to the children. Heartbreakingly, the trauma this has caused for these children will be carried with them, likely, for the rest of their lives.

Even for the 500 children that have now been reunited with their parents the damage can be lasting. 60 years of undisputed brain science tells us that even a limited period of separation from a child’s parents can have serious developmental consequences. This 2015 study by Berens & Nelson confirms that as little as three months is needed to cause long term impacts; every three months in an institution causes one month of developmental loss. This can lead to impaired brain, social-emotional, and psychological development.

The same study also tells us that institutionalization can cause decreased weight, height, and head circumference for the children affected.

These developmental problems extend into adulthood too. The research of Sonugo-Barke et al established that an institutionalized child carries with them the scars of this trauma into adulthood. Low educational achievement, higher unemployment, and mental health problems are all seen amongst adults who had spent part of their childhoods separated from their families.

These facts alone show the impact of the parent-child separation policy and why it is imperative even after the policy has been rescinded to ensure the speedy reunification of the children affected with their parents.

I know the impact that this has had on everyone who has seen the images. As a parent, and the CEO of Hopeland, I’ve found it difficult to put into words the way this crisis has made me feel. The simple truth, however, that I want everyone to know is the damage that this separation will have on the children involved and therefore how important reuniting these children with their families is.

– Nicholas Evans

The Power of Focusing on the One

 

As Hopeland grows and our impact increases, I have had a nagging feeling that I want to express to the many faithful people who diligently, and without fanfare, invest in children. I struggled to find the words to do so until I stumbled across this powerful saying of Dag Hammarskjold, former Secretary-General of the United Nations: “It is more important to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.”

I feel anyone committed to the welfare of children should take away one thing from this: the best and most noble thing you can do is to provide steadfast, faithful love to draw out the best in a child. With a committed, patient focus we truly give the best of ourselves and as a result bring out the best in a child.

Hammarskjold says to me that the people that are the real champions are people like my friends Phil and Helena who have committed themselves to a young boy who had spent too long in the foster system and desperately needed a consistent, loving care giver to tell him how precious he was.

I feel thankful to have those people around me as they point to a ‘true north’, they help ensure our direction of travel is always for the benefit of the one, thereby ensuring that our campaigns positively impact the many.

This work must always connect and benefit the one, the child who lacks a loving family, the refugee who could be separated from their family, the child in foster care who may be able to be returned to their parent when they recover from the drug addiction or may need to be tenderly and patiently supported as a better alternative situation is found for them.

When we lose the focus on the one, we lose what this work is about.

Hammarskjold also reminds us that by focusing on the one, we can then build this work to benefit the many. After 15 years as a practitioner working in the toughest and most deprived districts of England, I have found that by remembering the one we can scale this work to impact the masses. However, if we lose that focus on the individual, our work drifts and drags into an ethereal place that ultimately falls short of the goal, which is a child knowing that they are precious to a loving parent.

As Hopeland’s work continues to gain recognition and appreciation, I hope that we’ll never lose sight of who this is for:

the One.

– Nicholas Evans