Dear Friends,

In recent months, the federal government engaged in the practice of separating children and families attempting to cross U.S. borders. Parents have been detained while children were placed with sponsors, in shelters or in other institutions. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials report that over 2,300 children were separated from their families at our southern border in five-week period between
May 5 and June 9, 2018.

Yesterday the President signed an executive order that is intended to keep families together when they attempt to cross the border. While this is a positive step, Missouri KidsFirst is deeply concerned about the safety and health of children currently separated from their families and the lifelong impact it will have on the children involved. We represent Missouri’s 15 regional Child Advocacy Centers and our CACs are on the front lines serving children who have been abused. CACs see first-hand the significant harm that childhood trauma has on children, families and communities. In addition, we are the Missouri chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America working to keep child abuse from every happening in the first place.

Every effort should be made to keep families together and keep kids safe. Placing a child in an overcrowded institutional environment immediately heightens a child’s risk of physical, mental or sexual abuse. Furthermore, separating children from their families and placing them in a confusing and frightening living situation can and will lead to long-term negative health outcomes. Research clearly shows that adverse childhood experiences—particularly those that involve the loss of a caregiver or parent—contribute to a higher risk of mental health issues, post-traumatic stress, cardiovascular disease and substance abuse.

Missouri KidsFirst calls for the immediate reunification for those families that have been separated to date and for policymakers to develop a permanent solution that employs child and family-friendly policies to ensure that this practice will never again become the norm. Care must be taken during immigration proceedings to minimize childhood trauma, including the use of trauma-informed practices grounded in child development that ensure that children are treated as children and not small adults.

We ask you to contact your federal lawmakers with this message. For the contact information of your U.S. Senators and Representative, click here

Finally, learn more about strengthening families and the impact of trauma on children:
·       Essentials for Childhood (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): A resource proposing strategies communities can consider to promote the types of relationships and environments that help children grow up to be healthy and productive citizens so that they, in turn, can build stronger and safer families and communities for their children.
·       Strengthening Families: A Protective Factors Framework: A research-informed approach to increase family strengths, enhance child development and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. It is based on engaging families, programs and communities in building the five protective factors of: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need, and social emotional competence of children.
·       ACEs Connection : A social network that supports communities to accelerate the global ACEs science movement, recognizes the impact of ACEs in shaping adult behavior and health, and promotes trauma-informed and resilience-building practices and policies in all communities and institutions -- from schools to prisons to hospitals and churches -- to help heal and develop resilience instead of traumatizing already traumatized people.
·       Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) 101 : An overview of the prevalence and consequences of ACEs and how they can be prevented.

It is the responsibility of all adults to take action to protect children from harm. Thank you for your commitment to the health and wellbeing of all children.  

Joy Oesterly
Executive Director