The Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border as a means to deter or punish parents and children who come to this country seeking protection has received near universal condemnation from child welfare and human rights organizations across America.

“What is happening to children and families at the U.S.-Mexico border is unconscionable,” said Sarah Rittling, executive director of the First Five Years Fund. “The overwhelming brain science tells us that children who experience trauma in the first few years of life, like being separated from their families and isolated in harsh settings, are particularly at risk of suffering lasting damage to their brain architecture, which can lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health. But beyond that, this barbaric policy is completely contrary to the values of America – and human decency. As a parent, seeing the images of terrified children begging for their mothers and fathers is excruciating. This atrocity must come to an end.”

Other leading child advocacy organizations have made similar pleas to the Trump administration to end its policy of taking children away from their parents as a form of punishment and deterrent at the border:

  • Colleen Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP; President, American Academy of Pediatrics:
    “Detention of children is not a solution to the forced separation of children from their parents at the U.S. border. A 2017 AAP policy statement urges that immigrant children seeking safe haven in the United States should never be placed in detention facilities. Studies of detained immigrants have shown that children and parents may suffer negative physical and emotional symptoms from detention, including anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Conditions in U.S. detention facilities, which include forcing children to sleep on cement floors, open toilets, constant light exposure, insufficient food and water, no bathing facilities, and extremely cold temperatures, are traumatizing for children. These are not appropriate places for children.” READ MORE
  • Myra Jones-Taylor, chief policy officer at ZERO TO THREE:
    “The practice of having border agents remove children from caregivers suddenly and place them in institutional care, especially without any policy for visitation, maintenance of their attachment relationship, or reunification, amounts to child maltreatment. Anyone with infant/early childhood mental health expertise – and anyone with a heart for children – will tell you that separating young children from caregivers at the U.S. border is appalling and must be stopped.” READ MORE
  • Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund
    As a mother and grandmother I can’t fathom such cruelty. These abusive policies lack any semblance of common and moral decency. CDF and hundreds of organizations must continue to protest this cruelty in every possible manner and have said: “We fear these actions will have significant and long-lasting consequences for the safety, health, development, and well-being of children.” This harsh and cruel snatching and separation of children from parents must stop now!”
  • Save The Children Action Network
    “The Trump administration’s new policy of separating families at the border is inhumane, causing needless trauma for children and families. The United States has been a beacon of hope for hundreds of years. We must stand against unnecessary family separation at the border and reunite families as quickly as possible.” READ MORE
  • Nadine Burke Harris, Founder & CEO of SF Center for Youth & Wellness
    “The medical consequences of the federal immigration policy are severe. Children who are separated from their parents and deprived of the support of safe and trusted adults may experience serious medical effects over the course of their entire lives.”

The Washington Post reports that, as of Thursday, “11,432 migrant children are in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, up from 9,000 at the beginning of May. These numbers include minors who arrived at the border without a relative and children separated from their parents.”

American Academy of Pediatrics president Colleen Kraft told NPR, “By separating parents and children, we are doing irreparable harm to these children.”

The toxic stress children face through family separation at the border was featured recently in an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine by Michael J. MacKenzie, Ph.D., M.S.W., Emily Bosk, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., and Charles H. Zeanah, M.D.

FFYF will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as they become available.