Separating kids from parents at the border mirrors a 'textbook strategy' of domestic abuse, experts say — and causes irreversible, lifelong damage
If you only read one article from this list, read this one. I've quoted extensively from it because it contains so much important, and disturbing information.
"What they are doing to these children and parents is inhumane," Cardoso told Business Insider. "If we just look at the research evidence, anyone can see that these tactics will have long-term consequences for children and families."
Dr. Lisa Fortuna, medical director for child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center, told Business Insider that "in situations of stress, the only way that children can cope is if they have a caregiver with them that's taking care of them and that's there to protect them."
The removal of a caregiver can create acute distress that harms a child's ability to cope and self-soothe, which can lead to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In vulnerable developing brains, that can be especially harmful.
"Historically when things have happened like this — from the literature — when you have this accumulation of trauma and you break up families, you have a direct negative impact on the children, the caregivers, and potentially intergenerational bad effects," Fortuna said.
The US and Canada have a long history of separating Native Americans from their families. Researchers have linked the experience of Native Americans who were pressured to relocate away from tribes and family groups in the 1950s to problems with substance abuse and depression. Depression and juvenile behavior issues even persisted through the next generation as well.
She said that using children to manipulate adults' decisions — as Sessions' policy is intended to do — "is an eerie mirroring" of a "textbook strategy of people who abuse their partners."
In domestic abuse situations, one partner often uses control of children as a way to "manipulate their partner, maintain control over their partner, or coerce their partner," Heffron said. "Except now it's children being manipulated and being used as pawns to control a whole community of people, a whole population of people who are trying to seek safety."
"We've heard from families that have said they would rather risk the plight of coming to the United States and possibly being detained than face sure harm or even death in their home countries," McKenna said. "It's a policy that's just not going to be effective because it's not addressing the core reasons of why these families and these children are coming to the United States. It's just this pervasive violence that's perpetrated by the gangs and narcotraffickers which control communities."
Family separation also violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which specifically states that "a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will."
"I think we should be a society that understands that we need to take care of children. If they come to our borders and they are families, we can't harm them," Fortuna said. "We have to deal with policy and immigration issues, I understand that, but it cannot be policy that harms people directly, intentionally."
What separation from parents does to children: ‘The effect is catastrophic’
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association have all issued statements against it — representing more than 250,000 doctors in the United States. Nearly 7,700 mental-health professionals and 142 organizations have also signed a petition urging President Trump to end the policy.
“To pretend that separated children do not grow up with the shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds is to disregard everything we know about child development, the brain, and trauma,” the petition reads.
Maltreatment and the Developing Child: How Early Childhood Experience Shapes Child and Culture
by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.
While most children experience safe and stable upbringings, we know all too well that many children do not.
The very biological gifts that make early childhood a time of great opportunity also make children very vulnerable to negative experiences: inappropriate or abusive caregiving, a lack of nurturing, chaotic and cognitively or relationally impoverished environments, unpredictable stress, persisting fear, and persisting physical threat. These adverse effects could be associated with stressed, inexperienced, ill-informed, pre-occupied or isolated caregivers, parental substance abuse and/or alcoholism, social isolation, or family violence. Chronic exposure is more problematic than episodic exposure.
In the most extreme and tragic cases of profound neglect, such as when children are raised by animals, the damage to the developing brain – and child – is severe, chronic, and resistant to interventions later in life.
Persistent Fear and Anxiety Can Affect Young Children’s Learning and Development
From the Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
...contrary to popular belief, serious fear-triggering events can have significant and long-lasting im- pacts on the developing child, beginning in infancy. Science tells us that young children can perceive threat in their environment but, unlike adults, they do not have the cognitive or physical capacities to regulate their psychological response, reduce the threat, or remove themselves from the threatening situation. Research also shows that very young infants can learn to fear certain places, events, or people. These learned fear responses may disrupt the physiology of the stress response system, making it more difficult for the body to respond appropriately to typical, mild stress in everyday contexts later in life. Furthermore, when fear is learned, normal situations and circumstances can elicit responses that are harmful to a child’s development.