When I heard about the separation of families at the southern border of the U.S., I was immediately troubled and began thinking about what could be done locally to make a difference. As I was on social media, I saw that other people were also worrying and wanting to make a difference, too, which I expected. What I didn’t expect was that there would be so many people who asked, “What about our families? What about our children?”

In 2017, there were nearly 17,000 children in DCFS custody. More than 550 aged out of foster care in 2017, meaning they were taken from their families and never placed in a new home, not even a temporary foster home over the long term. When you start to think about the families broken up through false police accusations or the terrible bail bond system, you realize the number of children in our communities who are ripped from their families through the power of the state is heartbreaking.

I believe it is good that people have become aware of what our country is capable of. It is true that we have been breaking families apart since before we were a country. This is not news, but we need to recognize every opportunity to connect people to the suffering caused by a system that does harm to vulnerable families and which includes people who specifically prey on those families for all kinds of terrible reasons.

In response to the heightened concern over separated families, I have worked together with some Woodlawn and Hyde Park neighbors to create Families Together – South Side. There is a lot of interest in the immigrant children who have been in the news, but there are also a lot of people who are talking about all of the abuse of children and disrespect of families through the power of the state and other institutions. There is sudden interest inspired by these recent events, without a doubt, but it should not be despised because of it. Just a week or so ago, we invited Melanie Schikore from the Interfaith Community of Detained Immigrants to discuss this issue, and she introduced the issue by describing the separation of family members from one another beginning with Native Americans as a cruelty often perpetrated in American history by government and other powerful forces.

There is awareness among many people who are concerned about this specific action that it is connected to other acts of abuse that must be reformed. Please email gabrielpiemonte@gmail.com if you would like to join Families Together – South Side. We ought to try to build our network of allies wherever we can in our struggle for justice for all families in need.

Published  by the Committee to Elect Gabriel Piemonte. Please visit the website to donate and support our efforts to achieve justice and renewal in the Fifth Ward.