All children deserve to be happy and loved. The welfare of all children should be placed above all other persons’ rights, in my opinion.

I have spent my adult life working toward that goal advocating and fighting both professionally and personally for children, and feel I can give an educated opinion on this issue. (In full disclosure, and perhaps, to be completely fair, the cause of some bias, in my opinion, two of my grandchildren were fostered and adopted by my daughter and son-in-law, and I have worked and now serve on the board of a child advocacy program.)

Many Americans are outraged at the current treatment of the children of illegal immigrants after their parents were detained for illegal entry into the United States, as they should be, no matter where you stand on illegal immigration.

Of course we should ensure the children of illegal immigrants are well treated and taken care of, and we should endeavor to create better illegal immigration reform and enforcement, but I wish Americans would also care as much about the conditions facing children here in foster care as well.

And again, my stance is ALL children should never endure such treatment and conditions, ever, for any reason.

Americans should be outraged and working however we can to help all children in traumatic situations. From what I have experienced and seen, these immigrant children are being treated as well as or better than children of abuse, neglect, or deprivation in our own country.

This is not an either-or situation…once again, all children should be taken care of to the best of our Nation's ability.

Thousands of children in America have been trampled on due to their own parent's misconduct or criminal activity, the abused, neglected, and deprived are placed in foster homes or facilities unacceptable by most standards of care.

Of course not all foster homes or facilities are inadequate or grossly inappropriate – many are wonderful, excellent homes, loving and serving these children in need to the best of their ability. I have seen them also, but they are far fewer than needed.

In Ottawa County, there are currently no available foster homes outside of kinship placements. Children placed in DHS custody are sent to whatever foster homes are available in counties across Oklahoma. Why is that?

In my opinion, there is a lack of support for foster parents, and the system does not put the children first, often making fostering a traumatic experience for many involved, the foster parents and the foster children.

Children linger in foster care for years awaiting permanency while the legal system meant to protect them gives dysfunctional parents priority despite laws calling for the contrary.

Once in foster care, children are often subjected to inhumane situations and visitations with parents who make very little to no progress on treatment plans meant to reunite families, while waiting for a permanent family to bond with and love them.

Foster parents are put through emotionally tortuous situations and given little to no support from state agencies while providing care and love to children they may have to send back into unacceptable parental homes based on practices that do not put the best interest of the child first.

It's appalling to me.

We as a nation, state, and community should put children’s well being as our top priority in basic needs, health care, safety, and education, above all else in all issues. If the basic needs of all children are met, and all children are valued as they should be, most of the issues we face in this nation would resolve by creating a healthy, safe, valued next generation of Americans.

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.