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Parent-child separation is abuse

I have been a child and adolescent therapist for over 30 years. As a licensed clinical social worker, I am mandated by law to report child abuse.

Jeff Sessions instituted a new policy requiring ICE agents to take children of asylum-seekers away from their parents. All of my professional training tells me that these young children who are being forcibly removed from their parents will experience this as a traumatic event. 

Young children believe they cannot survive without their parent(s). Therefore, in a child’s mind, being taken away from your parent feels like death. These children undoubtedly feel terrified. This is emotional abuse. There is no justification for this new government policy that is purposely traumatizing children. I just want to know: where do I report this child abuse? 

As a parent, I remember being at Legoland years ago and losing sight of one of my daughters in the gift shop. I was calling her name, then yelling her name and running around frantically. 

I was in full panic mode for a few minutes, until we were thankfully reunited. I cannot imagine having my daughter being taken away from me indefinitely, and not knowing whether she is safe, or when I will see her again. That is pure agony for a parent. 

I can also remember the panic when, as a small girl, I got separated from my parents in a crowded public place. It was disorienting and very scary. I didn’t know which adults would help me, and which might hurt me. Luckily, that story had a happy ending too. However, the parents and children who are suffering through this current sadistic policy are in the middle of a nightmare, with no happy ending in sight. 

There is plenty of research establishing a clear link between toxic stress (a high level of stress that is on-going with no one to protect/comfort you) and serious physical and psychological damage. 

The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study was published 20 years ago, and is widely regarded as groundbreaking research in the study of trauma. It is obvious that trauma is not good for children emotionally. However, many people are surprised to find out that childhood trauma can have many deleterious effects decades later. 

The more adverse childhood experiences you had as a child, the more likely you are to develop medical conditions as an adult, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, substance abuse and obesity, to name a few. You also have a higher risk for depression and suicide. 

My heart breaks with every news story about these children who are crying inconsolably, raging, huddling together for comfort. This is not the America that I know and love. There is no political payoff that would justify traumatizing children on purpose.

Please contact your representatives about this atrocity that is occurring right before our eyes. We must do whatever it takes to bring about a happy ending for these parents and children.