UPDATED JUNE 21, 2018
On June 20, 2018, President Trump signed an Executive Order halting the practice of separating children from families after they are detained crossing the U.S. border illegally. There is still more work needed, however, as the President’s E.O. does not address what is to be done with the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents prior to his action yesterday. At this time, the Administration has said they have no immediate plans for how these children will be reunited with their families. It is imperative this happen as quickly as possible.
The Attachment & Trauma Network, Inc. Urges the Administration to Change Its Policy of Separating Children from Families after They Are Detained Crossing the U.S. Border Illegally, as This Separation Creates Toxic Stress in Children
June 20, 2018
We, the members of the Attachment & Trauma Network (ATN), represent the trauma-informed parents, clinicians and advocates of the child welfare and child development community throughout the United States. In light of our first-hand knowledge of the pervasive and potentially long-lasting harm that results from exposure to early childhood trauma, we are dismayed at the current Administration’s recently implemented policy of separating children from their parents after they have been detained when crossing the border into the U.S. and while pending the outcome of their legal proceedings. It is undeniable that these actions can pose long-term risks to these children’s psychological, emotional, social, and physical health. The science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) designates separation from a child’s primary caregiver as one of 10 primary ACEs that puts a child’s brain at risk for abnormal development, both in function and structure. The longer children are separated from their primary caregiver, especially with no access to trauma-informed care, the more detrimental the outcome may be. The neurobiology of this toxic stress is well documented.
Just 3 weeks ago the US Senate joined with the US House of Representatives (which voted in February) in passing a Resolution about the importance and effectiveness of trauma-informed care and declared May 2018 as National Trauma Awareness Month. The family separations going on at our southern border crossings fly in the face of such recognition and awareness. The United States should NOT be responsible for increasing anyone’s ACEs, or endangering the long-term health of these or any children. We urge policymakers to make the necessary changes to allow children to remain with their parents and to implement trauma-informed care strategies to reduce the levels of toxic stress children showing up at our country’s borders are experiencing.
The Attachment & Trauma Network (ATN) was founded over 20 years ago to assist and support traumatized children and their families as they heal from the devastating impact of early childhood trauma. The parents, clinicians, educators and counselors of ATN know first-hand how devastating this level of toxic stress can be and the importance of keeping families together for the emotional, psychological and long-term physical health of these children.
We stand ready to work federal officials on implementing trauma-informed immigration policies to protect the children and reduce toxic stress.
I’m Concerned About These Children…What Can I Do?
1. We encourage you to reach out to your elected officials (both legislators and the Administration) with information about the impact of ACEs, toxic stress, early childhood trauma on children and the importance of reuniting children with their parents as quickly as possible. The links below are to reference materials and articles that specifically reference the detrimental impact of this separation on children’s development and long-term health.
- Op-Ed by Former First Lady Laura Bush in Washington Post, June 17, 2018. Mrs. Bush correctly explains the increased health impacts faced by those interned in the Japanese internment camps during WWII. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/laura-bush-separating-children-from-their-parents-at-the-border-breaks-my-heart/2018/06/17/f2df517a-7287-11e8-9780-b1dd6a09b549_story.html?utm_term=.d27e736b7470
- Interview with Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris “A recipe for toxic stress”: an expert on why Trump’s family separation policy is so damaging to kids https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/6/20/17480680/child-separate-parent-trauma-effects
- The American Psychological Association’s statement on the separation of children from their parents. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2018/05/separating-immigrant-families.aspx
- Article explaining the negative impact to a child’s attachment from early separation. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/darwins-subterranean-world/201806/separating-kids-families-psychological-disaster
- Statement from American Academy of Pediatricians http://www.aappublications.org/news/2018/06/14/washington061418?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=TrendMD&utm_campaign=AAPNews_TrendMD_0
2. We have also included links to currently proposed legislation, so you can speak directly about the bills that have been proposed to change immigration laws and hopefully prevent this type of separation from happening again.
Quick summary of the six currently proposed bills dealing with the children being detained separately at the border:
3. Here are links to organizations working directly with the immigrant children who have been separated, if you want to get involved in the support and aid they are providing.
List from the Texas Tribune of organizations mobilizing to serve detained immigrant children. https://www.texastribune.org/2018/06/18/heres-list-organizations-are-mobilizing-help-separated-immigrant-child/
4. Finding your Elected Officials