The Child Left Behind

Studies conducted by the Migration Policy Institute and the Urban Institute show that deportation of a parent has a dramatic effect on the child, similar to when a child’s parent goes to prison. Washington Times reporter, Lydia DePillis, wrote:

The Obama administration has already expelled about 3.7 million people who were living here illegally between 2009 and 2013. While the pace of deportations has slowed dramatically, with a shift in enforcement towards weeding out those who have actually committed crimes in America, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that several hundred thousand children have either one or no parents in America as a result. And 5.3 million children are still living with unauthorized parents, constantly under threat of losing one or both.

We’re just starting to understand the impact that losing a mother — or, much more often, a father — can have on those kids’ development.

A pair of reports issued Monday paint a broad picture of how kids have been affected by deportations in the past several years. Both were funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and conducted by the Migration Policy Institute and the Urban Institute, with help from research and input from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The first, a survey of smaller-scale studies conducted on unauthorized immigrant families, shows that the effects of losing a parent to deportation are basically the same as what happens when a parent goes to prison: Kids can become homeless, bounce around to different family members, lose focus in school, and undergo long-lasting psychological trauma. One study found that family income dropped by 70 percent in the six months following a deportation, and one quarter of families in that situation reported going hungry.

The second, a synthesis of field work at study sites in California, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, and Illinois, found all of those impacts — and also identified gaps in social services that are ill-equipped to handle the special needs of children whose families have been ruptured by immigration rules.

“Study participants reported that children refused to eat, pulled out their hair, or had persistent stomachaches or headaches,” the authors write. “Others turned to more self-destructive outlets such as cutting themselves or abusing substances.”

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America’s Declining Literacy Rates and the Curse of Technology

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I’m embarrassed to admit it, but my daughter figured out how to use an iPad before she learned how to properly grip a pencil.  She preferred “flipping” the colorfully animated “pages” by swiping the screen rather than turning stiff cardboard or the tear-prone, fragile pages of a picture book.  Sadly, I’m mostly to blame: one of the few ways to get her to play by herself while Daddy finishes up a project on his work-issued laptop and Mommy reads her textbooks was to show her an e-book version of the three little pigs or play the alphabet song on YouTube.

I knew something had to changed when my daughter turned three.  We were walking around the mall when we saw that a book store had put up a huge display of their e-book reader on the glass front.  I was shocked when my daughter ran up to the display and started to swipe her fingers across the glass, wondering why the screen wasn’t changing.

I was an avid reader when I was younger, spending most of my after-school afternoons in the public library with my sister.  My sister and I read almost everything in the children and young adults section, exploring the jungle and the magical world of animals in Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, imaging a world of chocolate and candy delights and despising the nasty old farmer’s plots to exterminate a family of foxes in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Little Men, and my all-time favorite story of an optimistic, fun-loving, supernaturally strong girl in Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking.  My parents still have many of my favorite hardbacks on their book shelves, and whenever I visit them, I secretly enjoy a quiet afternoon reading these silly, yet endearing stories of my childhood.  I had always dreamed of passing on these yellowed pages to my children, reading these stories to them at bedtime, giggling and using our imaginations to picture floating glass elevators and girls carrying their horses to the circus.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that imagination is no longer really necessary in my daughter’s time.  There are movie versions of almost every children’s story or at least in the storybook apps.  The immediate satisfaction of a swipe or tap of the screen can’t be satisfied quickly enough through twenty pages of a book.  When I read books to my daughter at night, she doesn’t want to stay on one page and listen to the words.  She wants to flip ahead and see what the next page has, and she’s generally disappointed that the pictures don’t move.

A Reuters article brought to my attention a report published by San Francisco-based nonprofit Common Sense Media, which focuses on the effects of media and technology on children: “American children still spend part of their days reading, [but] they are spending less time doing it for pleasure than decades ago, with significant gaps in proficiency.”  The report tentatively linking the drop in literacy to the lack of parents modeling “good behavior” by reading for pleasure themselves.  My husband and I are guilty of this ourselves, and unfortunately, society and work doesn’t really help us either.  Reading is mostly work or school related reading, but almost never for pleasure.  In fact, even the quick guilty pleasure of reading in the bathroom has been taken over by untimely, urgent work emails.  

Most children can flip through picture books in under a minute, and to distract them for at least half an hour, one must have an arsenal of 30+ books ready for the ever-bored child.  And if the child is like my daughter, and wants Mommy to read the book with her, books don’t seem like a good idea when Mommy really needs to finish the last 10 pages of dense reading for tomorrow’s class and Daddy is too busy with his own work to help out.  Hence, *sigh* the iPad and YouTube.

Now that she’s old enough to start reading, she spends more time with books, trying to figure out the letter combinations and getting frustrated when none of it makes sense, “Mommy, what is tuh-huh-eh?”  THE.  It’s a slow process.  Still, I’m just glad she is willing forget the advances in technology to sit with a good old fashioned book open on her lap.

(If you have any suggestions, I’d love to from you!)



Finally, some Female Leads any Girl can look up to,0,630,1200_AL_.jpg

In the past year films with female leads, not solely based on romance, made a splash in the box office. With films like the Hunger Games and Divergent series it is easy to see why. Young girls are finally receiving real role models they can look up to. The female leads in these films are there because they need to be, not because the male lead needs someone to make out with during a scene. The female leads add value to the story and without them there is no story. Yes, they have some romantic connections in the films, but that is not their sole purpose in the film.

Disclaimer:  I have not seen Frozen yet and therefore can’t add that to my impression of female lead films, but I have heard great things about it and its value for young girls. It is refreshing to see that girls serve a bigger purpose than to be the arm candy for the superhero in many of these films. These female leads are superheroes themselves and kick ass. They are smart, thoughtful, cunning, and ambitious.

In Hollywood where a ghastly low number of speaking parts in films are female, it is not surprising that Hunger Games: Catching Fire was the first film with a female lead, without a male co-lead, to top the domestic box office that year since The Exorcist in 1973. When I first heard that statistic I thought that had to be wrong, there had to be plenty of great female lead films in last 40 years. And there were, but all of them had a male co-lead. It is arguable that Jennifer Lawrence did have a male co-lead, but nothing compared to other films.

The great thing about these films is that they gave birth to female stars that are wonderful role models as well. Jennifer Lawrence is Today’s It Girl and she is known for her realistic attitude about women’s bodies, style, and ambition. She made the Pixie cut a fad. I am thankful that she and other women are making a splash at the box office and showing not only Hollywood production companies, but the world that female lead films can not only make money, but break the box office while still being great role models for younger female generations. Girls today can look up to Katniss and Tris, which I think is a lot better than looking up to Cinderella, a girl who gets all made up just to find a Prince.