• Barbara Elk

To Take a Child Away

"This is what happens inside children when they are forcibly separated from their parents.

Their heart rate goes up. Their body releases a flood of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Those stress hormones can start killing off dendrites — the little branches in brain cells that transmit mes­sages. In time, the stress can start killing off neurons and — especially in young children — wreaking dramatic and long-term damage, both psychologically and to the physical structure of the brain.

“The effect is catastrophic,” said Charles Nelson, a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School. “There’s so much research on this that if people paid attention at all to the science, they would never do this.”

Washington Post article June 18, 2018

It has taken me a long time to even be able to pick up an article to read about situations where children are separated from their parents. Watching movies and shows where children are pulled away, screaming and crying, from their mothers leaves me in a puddle of my own tears, sobbing uncontrollably.

I was taken at the age of five. I have vivid memories from before then of seeing my relatives, eating with my grandparents, playing with my siblings, giggling while nervously hanging onto rope swings while I swung over a shallow stream, and accidentally sitting atop an anthill full of swarming red, biting ants.

I will never forget the day when our older sister told us to hide because social services had arrived at the house. Or the minutes following when I could hear them as they broke into the house, through the kitchen. The terror and psychological damage that did to me is still with me today. I suffer from unwarranted fears but yet, even when I tell myself I'm okay, the fear still lingers. The loss of family, and the way we were taken, cripples me emotionally.

One by one, we were all dragged out of our hiding spots, each of us crying and screaming for our mother. We were placed into the back of a car and driven to different houses throughout the night, one by one, disappearing into random foster homes. Scattered. We were in shock, uncertain of what was happening, too young to ask the important questions, and never understanding that we were never going to see each other again. We were best friends, we were siblings, we had always been together. But it didn't matter to them that what they were doing was twisting and destroying our innocent spirits.


I am now 48 years old. I'm still not fully connected to my People. I've read plenty about them. Heck, I've made trips back to Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, twice, starting in 1992. And even though I know its where I started my life and its a place where there are people who look like me and vice versa, the link that used to connect me to them is missing. I'm doing my best to reach out to relatives and the small bits of communication I have with them makes me tear up because in their words, I sense a welcoming. It's like seeing a bleep on a radar. You can see something is there.

It's not as easy as just physically "going home" much has happened to me since I was taken. So much that is bad and further twisted me inside. But I'm working to unfurl the twisted part of me. I'm untwisting it because my Heart wants to go Home.

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