To the editor:
I have been an early childhood educator for three years, teaching children between 12 and 36 months old.
My students have typically been developing children as well as those with developmental delays, and receive services such as physical therapy.
In addition, I am in a dual masters degree program working on obtaining a master of social work from the Silberman School of Social Work, and a master’s in education in infant and family development and early intervention from Bank Street College.
To support the kids in my classroom, I implement emotionally responsive practices and follow the lead of the children.
I’m writing to you to condemn the inhumane practice of separating parents and children at the U.S. border who are seeking asylum, and the irreparable damage that has been a direct result of this trauma.
The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “having experienced, witnessed or been confronted with an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.”
Immigration-related separation is a traumatic separation that inflicts unnecessary pain and stress for families and children.
According to statistics provided by the Department of Homeland Security, as of June 21, the number of children who have been separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border since May 7 has risen to 2,342. News outlets describe children in a state of disarray, crying themselves to sleep because they don’t know where their parents are, and if they will ever be reunited.
Similarly, the uncertainty and trauma has placed stress on parents. One Honduran man killed himself in his cell upon being separated from his child.
Child welfare experts have argued that the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy on immigration has long-term, detrimental effects on physical and mental health across the lifespan of the children involved.
For children to succeed, they need to develop a sense of safety.
If distressing events disrupt this, a child will not be trusting of their environment, and will form insecure attachments. Dr. Nadine Burke, a pediatrician, discussed the importance of the adverse childhood experiences study during a TED Talk, and explained that toxic stress and childhood trauma impairs social, cognitive and emotional development.
Studies have shown that children who are separated from their families post-immigration develop depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety.
Moreover, they live in fear, have trouble concentrating and learning, and exhibit behavioral issues. If left untreated, it could result in early death.
Ultimately, we need to end this child abuse. Keep families together, and reunite them as soon as possible to prevent further trauma.