The American Counseling Association called on the Trump Administration to immediately end its practice of separating children from their families at the international border and ports of entry. The practice, part of the Administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy, has separated more than 2,000 children from their families and placed them in facilities at multiple sites throughout the United States.
The practice generated condemnation from both critics and supporters of the president. Former First Lady Laura Bush said it is “immoral,” Reverend Franklin Graham called it “disgraceful” and former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci labeled the separations “atrocious” and “inhumane.” The Southern Baptist Convention and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also spoke out against the new policy and asked the Administration to halt these separations.
The criticisms come alongside those of the American Psychological Association, the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. All of these professional association noted the negative impact on the well-being of children who have been separated from their families.
In an American Counseling Association letter sent to the White House, ACA President Gerard Lawson echoed these concerns and cited them as the reason that ACA sent the letter to President Trump.
“As mental health clinicians who are trained in providing support for others, we are compelled to address this shocking practice,” Lawson wrote. “We are also compelled to act. Counselors use the concept of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) to understand how children’s experiences affect their current functioning, and also serve as risk factors for future mental health and substance abuse issues. We know from our training that this practice is inflicting harm on families and children.”
In the letter, ACA asks the Administration to take four specific steps to rectify the situation:
- Immediately end the separation policy for families attempting to enter the U.S.
- Present a plan clearly describing how U.S. federal government agencies will reunite the children currently in custody with the parents or legal guardians who brought them to the U.S. border.
- Present a plan clearly describing how the U.S. will provide for treatment of the trauma inflicted on all of these family members.
- Refrain from engaging in this practice for the duration of your presidential term.
The Administration’s new policies have caught the attention of members of Congress, with Republican members of the House and Senate calling on the President to reverse course. Late Monday evening, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced he would be introducing legislation that would halt the separation of children from their families.
ACA offers resources related to the forced family separations and childhood and family trauma here.