A Personal Story

Reverend Gayle Catinella

Last week one of my younger members called me in distress. They had talked to a family member about the children in detention, and the discussion did not go well. After talking through the frustration of not being heard, I suggested that the most effective way of helping people understand your position is to tell them your story. People’s hearts are moved by a personal story. So this is mine.
Three of my children are adopted. They are siblings and we got them because they had been removed for the final time from their biological parents for abuse and neglect. It took a few weeks, but eventually, I noticed that the middle child, my son Tim, the back of his head was flat. Flat.  Still is. 
I asked the social worker about this, and she put the pieces together for me. She said that when Tim was 6 months, he was dying. They admitted him to the hospital and diagnosed him with Failure to Thrive. After investigating it was discovered that he was never picked up except to be fed, and even then they would prop a bottle most of the time. He wasn’t touched, he wasn’t comforted. He was simply ignored. 
All three of my adopted children have problems stemming from the abuse and neglect they received as small children in their biological family even today. What we might not realize or understand is that abuse and neglect cause permanent damage. Permanent. This is something that doctors cannot fix or medicate, it cannot be undone. 
And it is not lost on me when I witness the abuse and neglect of children in the human detention camps who have been removed from their parents, that they are being permanently damaged. That the longer these children remain in these camps, underfed, under-resourced, emotionally neglected, the smaller becomes the chance that they will ever recover from this trauma. We are permanently damaging other people’s children.
It is also not lost on me that when this horrific treatment happened to my adopted children, it was considered unsafe and against the law. The law protects children in the United States from being treated this way. The law sends people to jail who perpetrate these crimes against children. And yet, here is our government, who is supposed to protect people, perpetrating these crimes. 
My heart just breaks. 
As a country, we are better than this. We stand for freedom, we stand for human rights, we stand for justice. And we stand for these things not just for our citizens, not just for people with power and money, but for everyone. And certainly for innocent children. Certainly for people who want to be a part of what makes our country the place of innovation and prosperity and common good to which we aspire. We are better than this.
We live in a democracy. And each voice counts. I know not all of you agree with me on this issue, and I respect that. However, you stand on this issue, contact your Congressperson, your Senator and your President. Your voice matters. 
Now my children are all grown and I am a grandmother. My grand kids are lively and trusting, smart and funny. They are little, and they depend on the adults in their lives to protect and provide for them. That is how they grow into people who will protect and care for others. I want them to see our country as a good and welcoming place. I don’t want them to be tainted by hate and injustice. I want them to be people of hope.
We have to create that world, and we are all responsible for making that happen. It is our moral and civic responsibility that we make sure all people are treated with dignity and decency, that all children are safe regardless of their color- that our country lives up to its moral obligations.