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Vol 39 No 1 The Trauma of Family Separation and Parental Loss in Early Childhood

The issue of family separation exploded in the headlines earlier this year when the federal administration revealed its “zero tolerance” policy as a deterrent to illegal immigration. As a result, more than 2,000 children under 18 years old were forcibly separated from family members and moved to facilities around the country.

In the words of Alicia Lieberman, ZERO TO THREE Board Member and renowned clinician and trauma expert, “Losing a loving and protective parent is the biggest single tragedy that can happen to a child.” Much work remains to be done to reunify the families who remain separated, and to ensure that child wellbeing is put at the forefront of policies and practices that affect families and children.

Of course, family separation and parental loss is an experience that reaches far beyond the context of immigration. In addition to the collection of articles that address these issues due to family migration, we explore what has been learned about separation and reunion in military families, in the child welfare system, due to parental death, and as a result of natural disasters. We also explore how grief and mourning manifest in very young children, and the critical importance of supporting the professionals who are working with traumatized children and families.

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