American Psychological Association (APA)

APA Voices Concern at Continued Separation of Migrant Children and Parents

Longer separation may lead to toxic stress, APA warns

Newswise — WASHINGTON – Following is the statement of Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD, president of the American Psychological Association, regarding the continued separation of migrant children and their parents:

“As mental health experts, we remain deeply concerned about the continued separation of migrant children from their parents pending immigration proceedings or, worse yet, following the deportation of their parents. The longer these children remain away from their parents in shelters, the greater their distress and the greater the likelihood that they will experience long-term negative effects.

“Decades of psychological research have shown that children and parents may experience toxic stress as a result of lengthy separations. Toxic stress can cause irreparable harm to children’s cognitive development and can lead to a host of mental, social and physical health problems later in childhood and well into adulthood. These problems can include severe psychological distress, PTSD, sleep disturbances, social withdrawal, substance use, aggressive behavior and a decline in educational achievement.

“If these children cannot be immediately returned to their parents as ordered by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, then they should receive a mental health screening by a qualified health care professional. Based on the outcome of this assessment, they might receive mental health care at the shelter or be moved to a therapeutic foster home to receive the level of care that they need.”

Therapeutic foster care parents are specially trained to work with children who have significant mental health needs. These parents are schooled in trauma-informed care and must complete more pre-service training hours than required for a more traditional foster home. They may also be required to complete a substantial number of ongoing training hours to continue to be licensed as a therapeutic foster home.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.


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