The following letter addresses the Reunification Task Force charged with reuniting families who were separated at our southern border under recent immigration policy, identifies the potential impact of those separations on infants and toddlers, and provides recommendations for the members of the Task Force as they begin this critical work.
ZERO TO THREE applauds President Biden’s establishment of the Interagency Task Force on the reunification of families separated at the border. As an organization committed to both the physical and mental health, and the overall well-being of all infants and toddlers, this matter is of utmost importance to ZERO TO THREE. Over the past several years, we have expressed our concerns about the impact of separations and other treatment of migrant families on the social-emotional development of young children. We are writing to urge the Task Force to address these impacts both for children who hopefully will be reunited with their parents as well as those who have experienced traumatic treatment at the United States border under recent policies.
Specifically, we recommend that the Task Force work with infant and early childhood mental health experts during and after the reunification process, where young children are involved, and in other activities to address the needs of very young children whose experiences with the immigration system may have caused trauma. We believe attention to these experiences must go beyond the reunification of children who remain separated, as critically important as that work is. We urge the Task Force to the extent possible 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. Infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) experts have specialized knowledge about the mental health needs of very young children and supporting their critical relationships with trusted adults. This expertise should be brought in to help support the families separated at the border.
Read our entire letter to read our full recommendations for the Task Force.
READ: ZERO TO THREE’s Three Priorities for Babies at the Border