This heartbreaking story from a man who spent his youth in group custody serves as a warning

Dell Cameron, left, and another child hug a state employee. (Photo: Twitter)
Dell Cameron, left, and another child hug a state employee. (Photo: Twitter)

Detention centers aren’t unique to the Trump administration, but that doesn’t make what’s happening in Texas any less heartbreaking. A former Walmart in Brownsville is housing children who’ve been separated from their parents, and there has been plenty of backlash about the conditions there.

Early Saturday morning, Gizmodo writer Dell Cameron shared a tweet thread about his experience living in a group home for several years of his childhood, during what he describes as “an intense custody battle.” He started the thread in response to someone who visited a child detention center and pointed out things like the “field trips” the kids there had.

“We went to parks and zoos, too, and then i’d cry myself to sleep most nights,” Cameron tweeted. “The trauma left me bent for years. this is child abuse.”

Cameron went on to describe various human rights abuses he says that he and other children experienced at the group home. In one instance, Cameron writes that he was “punished by scrubbing floors with a toothbrush while other kids played.” He also explains that the children were constantly forced to clean the home in order to pass rigorous “inspections.”

While Cameron’s experience is different from that of the children being detained in Texas, the common thread is what happens to children when they’re taken from their parents. He also wrote that he experienced suicidal thoughts and the desire to run away during his time in the group home.

“The trauma came from being separated from parents, who I knew were out there, and when I saw them, would tell me they were doing everything to get me home. But it took years. Hope is what I lost as a child. It was destroyed by the state,” Cameron tweeted.

Cameron told Yahoo Lifestyle via email that while he did visit a therapist while living in the group home, he doesn’t feel it helped him. “Their job wasn’t necessarily to help me as much as it was help create evidence against my parents on the state’s behalf,” he explained. “In other words, show that I was troubled, abused, etc., when in fact, none of those things were true.”

Cameron also added in the tweet thread that when he left the group home, it was difficult for him to adjust to life with his family. He explained that for months, he didn’t understand that he no longer needed to be bound by the group home’s rigorous schedule. In an email to Yahoo Lifestyle, Cameron said that the hardest parts of readjusting to living with his father were “being normal” and “trying to make friends.”

“I had no social skills,” Cameron told Yahoo Lifestyle. “It took several years to develop those, and that was very tough.”

At the end of his thread, Cameron explained that he decided to share his story on Twitter after seeing news reports about children living in “warehouses.”

In the replies to Cameron’s thread, people praised the writer for sharing his experience. One person wrote that the children who are being detained now “will need survivor stories.” Some people defended the United States’ immigration policy, though, with one person commenting that the current situation is “abuse by their parents for subjecting them to that by breaking the law.”

For his part, President Trump has maintained that Democrats are responsible for the separation of these parents and their children. But as CNN explained, Trump’s proposed “compromise bill” wouldn’t do much to stop the current policy — it would just keep families together while the Department of Homeland Security detained them. CNN also reports that the Trump administration is responsible for the current policy of separating parents and children.

“I know exactly what those kids are going through. At least, I know what it’s going to do to them if they aren’t reunited with their parents soon,” Cameron told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I spent half a decade torn away from mine at a very early age. It’s a different situation, obviously. These kids are being thrown into a particularly harsh environment. And look around, people hate them. Let’s cut the bulls***. They hate them for who they are. That’s why they’re there. … The problems they develop there, it’s going to mess them up for years; potentially, the rest of their lives. The U.S. government is screwing up a lot of kids.”

Cameron’s tweets serve as a reminder of what’s going on right now for many people, particularly ahead of Father’s Day, which children in detention centers may not be able to spend with their own families.

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