Separating Children from Their Families

Recent events have prompted much discussion about the importance of family relationships and effects of family separations on development.  Many programs/practitioners will continue to have concerns and need information to support their work.  The California Center at WestEd has compiled a set of resources from the field that provide a framework for these discussions based on the body of literature and research evidences. The California Center at WestEd is providing these resource links, while not endorsing any particular perspective or policy.

Zero to Three

Zero to Three has taken a strong stance and sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security.

Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD)

The recent U.S. Immigration practice of separating children from their families at the border will be halted, and we at SRCD are relieved at this overdue change in policy. Yet, clear evidence indicates that trauma of separation during the highly stressful circumstances the affected children have experienced can have lasting effects.  SRCD stands on the science and urges the immediate reunification of these children and their families, as well as dedicated attention to their ongoing well-being.

The new evidence brief, prepared by expert members of SRCD’s Latino Caucus, describes scientific evidence on the effects of child separation and the implications for public policy.  SRCD will be disseminating this brief to members of Congress, to advocacy organizations, and to the public.  We encourage you to share the brief widely with your own networks. This powerful synthesis of the evidence provides clear guidance for future administrative policies and practices. We thank the authors of the brief for their diligent work and rapid preparation of these materials.

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard

Statement by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D. on Separation of Families

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

The AAP has taken a stance against this practice of separating families and is allowed to advocate, unlike organizations such as WestEd and SRCD.

American Psychological Science (APS)


A troubling prognosis for migrant children in detention – the earlier out the better

How mother child separation causes neurological vulnerability into adulthood


Ways to Get Involved

Maternal Mental Health Now (LA):

The news of children being separated from their parents, family and caregivers at the US/Mexico border has been very distressing to all of us at Maternal Mental Health NOW.  We know that the separation of a young child from his or her parent is a severe form of trauma which may have lasting impact on the child’s long-term physical and mental health.  It can also cause severe depression, stress and trauma for the parent.  When we consider the war and violence that the people being detailed are fleeing in their home countries, we have multiple levels of compounded trauma.

At Maternal Mental Health NOW, we work to support the development of strong attachment between the baby and caregiver from pregnancy and beyond because we know that attachment is a key ingredient to an individual’s ability to develop resiliency.  We do this by providing training and capacity building to the health care and social service providers that serve these families.

What can we do now?

Maternal Mental Health NOW is joining the many other national, regional and local organizations – including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, American Psychiatric Association, Physicians for Human Rights, Marce Society of North America, and many other influential organizations – that are denouncing this practice.

We are also preparing ourselves to be ready to address the ongoing trauma that this practice has caused when some of these individuals arrive in Los Angeles County.  We are updating our training curriculum, identifying more resources for our resource directory and encouraging those that have been affected by this trauma to reach out for help.

For more information on Maternal Mental Health Nows activities visit:


Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

The Center for Law and Social Policy also have ways to get involved.  For more information on their activities visit: