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06.20.2018 / Press Release

The Trump Administration Is Forcibly Institutionalizing Children for Political Gain

Family Separation is traumatizing children and putting their physical and mental health at risk

Washington, D.C.—For months the Trump administration has adopted an inhumane “zero tolerance” policy at our southern border, forcibly separating children from their parents and placing them in government-run facilities. Click here to view Families USA’s analysis of the health impact on children when separated from their families.

Following is the statement of Families USA’s Director of Early Childhood and Child Welfare Initiatives Shadi Houshyar:

“Separating children from their parents is harmful to children, traumatic for families, and runs counter to our basic American values.  The experience of separation, even one as brief as a few hours, causes children distress. For the very young, forced separation is highly stressful and can have lasting health and emotional impacts.

“The Trump administration must end this cruel practice of separating children from their parents immediately. The president created this crisis and can end it at once with the stroke of his pen. We strongly oppose the administration’s tactic of using children as leverage to pass controversial immigration legislation. If the president refuses to put the best interests of children and families ahead of his political agenda, Republican leadership in Congress can and should act decisively to pass clean legislation—not tied to any other immigration policies—to stop family separation.

“The administration’s zero tolerance policy is straining an already overwhelmed system and we do  not believe that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has adequate staff, resources, or the proper training to provide developmentally-appropriate care—including routine medical, dental, and mental health services—to the thousands of children, including babies and toddlers, in its custody. By taking babies and young children away from their parents and placing them in these facilities, the government is essentially forcibly institutionalizing the very young, a practice long ago recognized as inappropriate for young children by our child welfare system. We know that when strong, frequent or prolonged adverse experiences are endured without adult support, stress can be said to be ‘toxic’ and lead to disruptions in the child’s stress response system and brain architecture.

“This policy does not reflect our values as a nation. The world is watching. Now is the time for Republican leaders to put partisanship aside and make children and families a priority. This shameful practice must stop immediately and separated children must be reunited with their families without delay. ”