As a pediatrician in Overtown, I have begun to see an influx of undocumented minors from Central America. I help run a free pediatric clinic that caters to homeless and medically underserved children. Recently, I have seen more undocumented than homeless children. These children do not qualify for services due to their undocumented status. They need immunizations, school physicals, treatment for asthma-related illnesses and other common illnesses. My clinic is one of their best options because I provide many services for free, whereas many local pediatricians cannot.
Despite my generous donors, there are not enough resources to keep me caring for the increasing rate of children in need.
We are absorbing these children due to complicated reasons, primarily a lack of safety in their Central American homes. In the United States they may be physically safer, but we lack the ability to truly care for them. I have seen adolescents who were abducted by gangs, toddlers who were held hostage at gunpoint, children who have been separated from any loving relative.
Here, children are refused school entry because administrators are unfamiliar with paperwork from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, children can’t afford healthcare required for school registration and they face difficulties getting enough food to eat. The children appear generally healthy, but suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, severe dental decay, poor nutrition and various medical problems that cannot all be addressed by a single general pediatrician.
The politics of this national border crisis is what we hear on the news. Who do we blame? How are we going to stop it? My concern is more grassroots. The fact is that these resilient children are here.
How can we as a community help them receive the medical, dental, psychological, educational, and nutritional needs they require before further need arises, before subsequent trauma is evident?
As a pediatrician, I have a commitment to all children. I am hoping that even those who do not share my focus can appreciate the growing concern I have for how we will accommodate these children who come with so little and require so much. Whatever your political stance, these children are here and staying for an undetermined amount of time. They are in our neighborhoods and our schools. They are our children now, and we need a plan to help them so they can grow up to become contributing and responsibility citizens.
Kelli L. Nayak,
pediatric clinic medical director,
Miami Rescue Mission Clinic, Miami