Texas Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics Oppose Bill That Would License Detention Centers as Child Care Facilities
Legislation pending in Texas House of Representatives would allow children to be detained in prison-like centers for weeks at a time
AUSTIN, TEXAS -- The American Academy of Pediatrics stands with Texas pediatricians in opposition to a bill pending in the Texas House of Representatives that would allow family residential centers to be licensed as child care facilities, which would enable the centers to house children in traumatic, prison-like conditions for extended periods of time.
SB 1018 was passed in the Texas Senate on May 10 and has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee. The proposed legislation would allow the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to create exemptions to their existing General Residential Operations code to license family residential centers in Karnes City and Dilley as child care facilities.
“Children do not belong in prison. Even short stays in detention centers like the ones in Karnes City and Dilley can harm children’s physical and mental health, at a time when they have already undergone significant trauma,” said Joyce Mauk, MD, FAAP, president of the Texas Pediatric Society. “From our visits to these centers, it’s clear they lack the medical and mental health resources to provide the kind of care that children need.”
“Children do not immigrate; they flee,” said Fernando Stein, MD, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “These children have fled unspeakable violence and abject poverty, and have come to the U.S. to seek refuge. They deserve a warm, safe and nurturing environment, and health care that meets their basic needs. That is not happening in these detention centers now, and this legislation would prolong that suffering.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement in March 2017 that opposed the detention of children in any setting and found that the Department of Homeland Security facilities for temporary housing of immigrants do not meet basic standards regarding the care of children in residential settings.
Children who have been detained – even for a short time – have shown symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and behavioral problems. According to the AAP, there is no evidence that spending any time in detention is safe for children. Instead the AAP recommends the Department of Homeland Security use community-based alternatives to house families while their immigration cases proceed.
“By licensing family residential centers, the DFPS would assume added responsibility for an already overburdened system,” Dr. Mauk said. "This bill is bad policy for Texas and it’s bad for children, and the Texas Pediatric Society will continue to speak out against it. We urge legislators to reject the bill and instead support policies that provide vulnerable children the health care and nurturing environment they need.”