Why Father's Day Feels Different This Year
Michael McNeil, MD
June 12, 2017
Father’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on lucky I am for my dad and the chance to raise my two rambunctious boys.
The farther along in my career I go as a pediatrician, the more I understand how important having an actively involved father is for child development. As studies shows, children of engaged fathers are more likely to be emotionally secure, confident, and have better social connections. Children with fathers active in their lives are more likely to do better in school and less likely to live in poverty as adults.
That is why I am troubled with what I see in my clinic. I work at a community health center where most of our patients are immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Over the past several months there has been a rise in anxiety and fear among the patients and families I work with due to the more aggressive deportation procedures in our country. We have also seen several children whose fathers have been arrested and deported because of their immigration status. The problem is, the majority of the children I take care of are American citizens and therefore remain in the United States fatherless.
In the mid-1980’s, the vaccine for HIB was released and thirty years later we no longer see this disease. Because of the effectiveness of this vaccine my younger partners only know of HIB meningitis through textbooks (and some of my anecdotes).
This is the recurring story of vaccine preventable diseases.
- See more at: https://www.aap.org/en-us/aap-voices/Pages/We-Can%27t-Let-Our-Guard-Down-Against-Vaccine-Preventable-Diseases.aspx#sthash.196pj2e8.dpuf
"Children with fathers active in their lives are more likely to do better in school and less likely to live in poverty as adults."
This is an increasingly common scenario, as more than 4.5 million children in the United States are citizens of this country and have at least one parent who is undocumented. Recent research reveals that the forceful separation of parent and child through deportation has a damaging impact on the mental and emotional health of the children left behind. I’ve seen the effect first-hand in my patients. There was the 5-year-old whose mother was concerned because he’d begun urinating on himself at home and at school. She also reported episodes of inconsolable crying and outbursts of rage, including kicking and punching other children. Upon further questioning, I learned all of his symptoms started the week after his father was arrested in front of him and deported to Mexico.
Since the start of 2017 we have seen a more than a 150-percent increase in “non-criminal arrests” in the United States of undocumented immigrants who other than being in the country illegally, have been compliant with the laws of the United States. There are also rumors of enforcement officers arresting individuals outside of previously identified “safe zones” such as schools and government buildings. Whether these stories are true or not they have resulted in many parents and children becoming too afraid to seek out the help they need for their health and well beingwell-being.
"Recent research reveals that the forceful separation of parent and child through deportation has damaging impact on the mental and emotional health of the children left behind."
As I prepare to celebrate this Father’s Day in the company of my wife and children, I am grateful for the chance to be a father. My boys are the greatest achievement of my life.
After my experiences these last few months in my clinic, however, I will be thinking about my patients not being able to enjoy this day with their fathers. Not because of divorce, drug or alcohol abuse, or abandonment or other ways families can be torn apart, but because of current policies that do not place adequate emphasis on protecting families and children.
Our greatest resource in this country is not coal or natural gas; it is not digital devices or entertainment. Our greatest resource in this country is our children. Only by investing in their future will we truly be great, and we do them a disservice by taking away fathers who are invested in their care.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Michael McNeil, MD, a second-year resident at Seattle Children's Hospital and the University of Washington, is a member of the AAP’s Section on Pediatric Trainees.