Organization hails Secretary Mayorkas’s work to reunify separated migrant families
WASHINGTON — More than two and a half years after the nation first learned that children of all ages, including babies and toddlers, were being forcibly separated from their caregivers at the border, President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced efforts are underway to reunite migrant families within the United States at last. ZERO TO THREE, the country’s leading early childhood development nonprofit dedicated to ensuring all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life, thanked the White House and all members of the Task Force for this long-overdue step and noted the importance of consulting infant and early childhood mental health experts throughout the process.
ZERO TO THREE Chief Policy Officer Myra Jones-Taylor stated:
“The pain and devastation wrought upon countless families over the past few years for no crime other than seeking protection for their children have been unimaginable. We know from decades of research on brain development, that even the youngest children who were involuntarily separated from their caregivers at the border experienced severe trauma – the kind that can physiologically disrupt brain development and wreak long-lasting emotional damage. Our sincere thanks go out to Secretary Mayorkas, the White House, and all members of the Task Force for their leadership on this issue and their immediate work to reunite children of all ages with their families.
“But while the work of the Reunification Task Force is an important and praiseworthy first step, we know the work is only beginning. Ensuring that reunited children and families have the two-generation infant and early childhood mental health supports they need is essential to supporting the healing process. We strongly urge Secretary Mayorkas and the Task force to engage infant and early childhood mental health experts in this complex and critical work. We owe it to each and every one of these children, who have already been through enough trauma for a lifetime, to do everything in our power to help them recover and realize their unlimited potential.”
Earlier this year, ZERO TO THREE wrote to members of the Task Force applauding the establishment of the Interagency Task Force and urging them to work with infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) experts during and after the reunification process. The nonprofit urged the Task Force to “examine and seek to address the impacts of any separation, family detention, placement in congregate care, or other negative experiences to which young children may have been subjected. IECMH experts have specialized knowledge about the mental health needs of very young children and supporting their critical relationships with trusted adults.”
Since the previous administration’s policy of family separation came to light in November 2018, ZERO TO THREE has taken numerous actions to combat these measures and to ensure that the Flores Settlement Agreement is upheld, including laying out three top priorities to support babies at the border. In August 2019, the nonprofit joined more than 20 other organizations on an amicus curiae brief filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to adamantly oppose the previous administration’s Rule gutting the protections of the FSA, as well as another brief filed in January 2020 in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the government’s appeal. The organization also submitted public comments opposing the proposed Rule.
About ZERO TO THREE
ZERO TO THREE works to ensure all babies and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. Since 1977, the organization has advanced the proven power of nurturing relationships by transforming the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers. For more information, and to learn how to become a ZERO TO THREE member, please visit zerotothree.org, facebook.com/ZEROTOTHREE or follow @ZEROTOTHREE on Twitter.