National Network for Youth statement in response to children being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border

We are heartbroken that children were suddenly separated from their caregivers and placed in institutional care.  We are particularly concerned that the policies resulting in family separation were implemented as part of an effort to punish those crossing the border, that the Administration has sought to justify these separations by citing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and that it failed to properly prepare for the consequences of implementing these policies. We oppose these policies and are appalled that this family separation policy did not include any policy for visitation or reunification.

Separating children from their caregivers is a traumatic experience that can have long-term impacts on the child’s well-being and destroys the relationships that foster resilience and healthy development. NN4Y members have seen the dramatic impacts of this separation policy, both directly on the providers who have contracts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families to serve “Unaccompanied Alien Children”, as well as through the broader impact that this policy has on the mental health and family stability of the young people our members serve, and their staff.

We applaud the service providers who care for these children with dignity and respect, and who provide them with trauma-informed services in a safe and therapeutic place to stay.  These programs have been going above and beyond to care for these young people and to try to reunify these children with their parents.

However, we are horrified to learn that some contractors are holding children in unsafe, unsanitary, non-therapeutic and inhumane conditions. No child should be held in a cage, subject to extreme temperatures, be denied appropriate nutrition, held in solitary confinement or not protected from risk from staff and/or other children.

The National Network for Youth envisions a future in which all young people have a safe place to call home.  We call on the U.S. Government to keep families together as a policy and to guarantee children’s basic safety and well-being while in the care of the government.  We are continuing to advocate for Congress to ensure that all families crossing the border are able to remain together, and to ensure that when children are separated from their caregiver they are placed in appropriate settings that will facilitate family reunification as soon as possible.