Policy Resource

Early Childhood Development Expert Responds to Overturn of Flores Settlement Agreement

Aug 21, 2019

The following statement regarding the Administration’s announcement of a new rule to allow detainment of migrant children and families indefinitely should be attributed to Myra Jones-Taylor, Chief Policy Officer, ZERO TO THREE:

“The Administration’s rollback of the Flores Settlement Agreement—which has been a bulwark for humane treatment of migrant children in U.S. custody—will jeopardize these children’s well-being by allowing unlimited detention in facilities with no outside oversight. For babies and toddlers, this rule paves the way for spending a significant time in family detention during a critical developmental period.”

“Babies do not belong in detention. There is no simpler way to put it. Research clearly shows that babies’ physical and social environments have a significant impact on their development. Even under the best circumstances, and even with their families, placing infants and toddlers in detention centers is not an acceptable option.

“With the reversal of the Flores Settlement Agreement, children and families will be sent to detention facilities, where they could face long stays under stressful and potentially abusive conditions. Further compounding the risks to their well-being, families in detention may face inadequate access to basic needs and services including medical and mental health care. Additionally, with oversight coming from the Department of Homeland Security—and not an external party—these facilities do not operate in the best interest of young children and their development.

“Out of deep concern for young children and the future of our country, ZERO TO THREE stands in strong, informed opposition to any practice that causes trauma and long-term harm to children. The practice of family detention profoundly affects babies’ development and well-being during a critical period when their brains are growing faster than at any later point in their lives. For the federal government to inflict detention on infants, toddlers, and their families for an indefinite amount of time is cruel and inexcusable.”


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.