Without trauma treatment programs, the effect of the forcible separation on these migrant children will be debilitating and cause them life-long harm.

Without trauma treatment programs, the effect of the forcible separation on these migrant children will be debilitating and cause them life-long harm. Without trauma treatment programs, the effect of the forcible separation on these migrant children will be debilitating and cause them life-long harm.

July 5, 20181 min read
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"Forcible separation of families inflicts severe trauma on children and parents. The bond between caregiver and child is critical for the child’s sense of safety and well-being. When that bond is interrupted through a violent or forcible separation, the child experiences severe neurobiological stress causing the child to feel intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Such stress is particularly acute for children who have experienced other traumas, such as witnessing violence, sexual abuse, or forced detention, which are common experiences for migrant children fleeing violence and persecution. Prolonged exposure to such stress has a debilitating effect on children even after the particular traumatic event is over. Children separated from their parents exhibit the behaviors detailed above typical of children experiencing the symptoms of traumatic stress. They can suffer anxiety, sleep disturbances, emotional changes such as aggression, withdrawal, and fear. They also suffer difficulties in reasoning, thinking, learning, and communication, and a decline in educational achievement."


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  • Marleen Wong
    Marleen Wong David Lawrence Stein/Violet Goldberg Sachs Professor of Mental Health Senior Vice Dean (Retiring) of Field Education Clinical Professor of Social Work

    Clinical Professor focused on children, youth, and families and specializing in behavioral health, mental health, and military social work.

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