Declaration on the Proposed Separation of Undocumented Mothers and Children at U.S. Border Crossings

Written by the Child Advisory Network regarding the Well-Being of Children Served by Homeland Security.

See full list of signatories at the bottom of the declaration.

As child development and well-being researchers and practitioners, the Child Advisory Network strongly denounces the policy currently under consideration by Homeland Security Secretary Kelly that would separate undocumented women and children who have illegally crossed the U.S. border, including those seeking asylum. We write this statement to call attention to the irreparable harm that enacting such a policy would cause to children. We urge Secretary Kelly and leaders in Congress to consider any potential deterrent effect to parents of the proposed policy in the context of those life-altering consequences for the welfare and well-being of children.

The Child Advisory Network was created in March, 2017, to support the dissemination of best practices in the protection, welfare, and well-being of immigrant children in contact with Homeland Security through research, public awareness and advocacy, and participation in public discussions of immigration policies that do not harm children. The Child Advisory Network operates with the support of the Child Welfare and Well-Being Research Unit at Rutgers University. Its members include a diverse group of educators, community leaders, social workers, physicians, psychologists, lawyers, economists, child development specialists, and public health practitioners from across the United States.

Setting aside whether or not separating children from their caregivers would actually serve as a deterrent to crossing the border without a visa, the devastation a traumatic separation would cause for children, many of whom have already experienced challenging circumstances, far outweighs any intended policy benefit.

Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that children develop best in the context of safe, supportive, and nurturing relationships. Positive relationships with caregivers are essential for a child’s healthy physical and emotional growth. For traumatized children, these ties are even more important, as caregivers help children regulate their emotions and establish a sense of safety. When children are unnecessarily separated from their caregiver, they are at risk of falling behind in many ways: their physical and mental health suffers as does their ability to learn and grow. These trauma effects are not short lived. They can last a lifetime, even causing early death.

The costs to society of separating children from their caregivers are also unimaginably high. We know that children who fall behind need investments in all domains and are likely to need more public support and services as adults. Children and youth who experience the trauma of unnecessary separations are more likely to suffer from toxic stress, maltreatment, have undiagnosed or untreated mental and physical health conditions, learning difficulties, and experience poverty. It is far more cost effective to prevent additional trauma than to bear the burden of remediating it down the road.

 

We, the undersigned, urge the Department of Homeland Security and leaders in Congress to enact policies that keep families together and emphasize the developmental needs of children.  This is the only policy that makes sense for the welfare and well-being of children.

Margarita Alegria, Ph.D.

Professor

Harvard Medical School

 

Bill Baccaglini

President & Chief Executive Officer

The New York Foundling

 

Richard P. Barth, Ph.D.

Dean and Professor

Past-President of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare

University of Maryland School of Social Work

 

Jodi Berger Cardoso, Ph.D., LCSW

Assistant Professor

University of Houston

 

Karen L. Bierman, Ph.D.

Evan Pugh University Professor

Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies

The Pennsylvania State University

 

Emily Bosk, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Social Work

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

Kate Breslin, MPH

President and CEO

Schuyler Center for Analysis & Advocacy

 

Ajay Chaudry, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow

Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service

New York University

 

Dante Cicchetti, Ph.D.

McKnight Presidential Chair

William Harris Professor and

Professor of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Institute of Child Development,

University of Minnesota

 

Mark Courtney, Ph.D.

Professor,

School of Social Service Administration

University of Chicago

 

Jess Dannhauser

President and CEO,

Graham Windham

 

Deborah Daro, Ph.D.

Senior Research Fellow

Chapin Hall

University of Chicago

 

Jorge Delva, MSW, PhD.

Kristine A. Siefert Collegiate Professor of Social Work

Director, Community Engagement Program, MICHR

University of Michigan

 

Alan J. Dettlaff, Ph.D.

Dean and Maconda Brown O’Connor Endowed Dean’s Chair

Graduate College of Social Work

University of Houston

 

Mary Dozier, Ph.D.

Professor

University of Delaware

 

Donald N. Duquette, J.D.

Clinical Professor Emeritus of Law;

Founding Director, Child Advocacy Law Clinic

University of Michigan Law School

 

Jacquelynn Duron, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Social Work

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

Megan Finno-Velasquez, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

New Mexico State University

 

Philip A. Fisher, Ph.D.

Philip H. Knight Chair & Professor of Psychology

University of Oregon

 

Cynthia Garcia Coll, Ph.D.

Professor

Albizu University

 

Infant-Toddler Mental Health Coalition of Arizona

 

Justin Jager, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, Arizona State University

 

Neeraj Kaushal, Ph.D.

Professor of Social Policy

Columbia University

Alicia F. Lieberman, Ph.D.

Irving B. Harris Endowed Chair in

Infant Mental Health and Professor

Department of Psychiatry,

University of California San Francisco

 

Michael Lewis, Ph.D.

University Distinguished Professor

Director, Institute for the Study of Child Development

Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

Erika Lunkeheimer, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology

Associate Director, Child Maltreatment Solutions Network

The Pennsylvania State University

 

Suniya Luthar, Ph.D.

Foundation Professor of Psychology

Arizona State University

 

Michael J. MacKenzie, Ph.D., MSW

Chancellor’s Scholar for Child Well-Being

Associate Professor of Social Work & Pediatrics

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

Jennifer March, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, Inc.

 

Jeanne C. Marsh, PhD, MSW

George Herbert Jones Distinguished Service Professor

School of Social Service Administration

University of Chicago

 

Vonnie McCloyd, Ph.D.

Ewart A.C. Thomas Collegiate Professor of Psychology

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

 

Sarah McMahon, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Rutgers School of Social Work

 

Richard J Murnane, Ph.D.

Research Professor,

Harvard Graduate School of Education

 

Charles A. Nelson, Ph.D.

Professor of Pediatrics, Neuroscience and

Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry,

Harvard Medical School

Richard David Scott Chair in Pediatric

Developmental Medicine Research,

Boston Children’s Hospital

 

Pedro A. Noguera, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Education

Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, UCLA

 

Kerrie Ocasio, Ph.D.

Assistant Research Professor

Rutgers University, School of Social Work

 

Sheryl Olson, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology

University of Michigan

 

Lawrence A. Palinkas, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair

Department of Children, Youth and Families

Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

University of Southern California

 

Robert Pianta, Ph.D.

Dean and Professor

University of Virginia

 

Ellen Pinderhughes, Ph.D.

Professor of Child Study and Human Development

Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development

Tufts University

 

Judy Postmus, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Social Work

Director, Center on Violence Against Women and Children

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

Cathryn C. Potter, Ph.D.

Dean and Distinguished Professor

School of Social Work

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

Kathleen J. Pottick, Ph.D.

Professor, School of Social Work & Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

James Purcell

CEO

Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies

 

Ramesh Raghavan, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Dean for Research and Professor

School of Social Work

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

Katherine L. Rosenblum, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Director, Women & Infant Mental Health Program

Co-Director, Infant & Early Childhood Clinic

Department of Psychiatry

University of Michigan

 

Arnold J. Sameroff, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Psychology

University of Michigan

 

Sandy Santana, J.D.

Executive Director

Children’s Rights

 

Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.

Professor of Child Health and Development

Harvard University

 

Cassandra Simmel, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Social Work

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

Frank Spain

NYC and Non-Profit Sector Child Welfare Administrator

 

L. Alan Sroufe, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus,

Institute of Child Development

University of Minnesota

 

Miriam Steele, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology

New School for Social Research

 

Howard Steele, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair of Psychology

New School for Social Research

 

Carola Suarez-Orozco, Ph.D.

Professor, Human Development & Psychology

UCLA

 

Jeanette C. Takamura, Ph.D.

Professor

Columbia University School of Social Work

 

Mark F. Testa, Ph.D.

Child Welfare Scholar &

Social Work Professor

University of Chicago

 

Adriana J. Umaña-Taylor, Ph.D.

Foundation Professor

Arizona State University

 

Donna VanAlst, Ph.D.

Assistant Research Professor

Rutgers University

 

William Waldman

Professor of Professional Practice

School of Social Work

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

Robert Weigand

Director, Child Development Laboratory

Cowden Distinguished Principal Lecturer of Family & Human Development

T. Denny Sanford School of Social & Family Dynamics

Arizona State University

 

William Weisberg, Ph.D.

Executive Director,

Forestdale Inc.

 

Rebecca M.B. White, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Arizona State University

 

Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Ph.D.

University Professor

New York University

 

Luis H. Zayas, Ph.D.

Dean, and Robert Lee Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy

School of Social Work

The University of Texas at Austin

 

Charles H. Zeanah, M.D.

Mary Sellars Polchow Professor of Psychiatry

Vice Chair for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Tulane University School of Medicine