Detained Children: Part VI

Jul 16, 2018

A Statement from Key Leaders

In this final contribution to this blog series, Dr. Inge Corless (Professor, School of Nursing) has shared a document that was prepared late last month by an interprofessional group of leaders to express concern over the separation of children and families.   Thanks to Dr. Corless for her leadership and willingness to share.  My hope is that this series of contributions adds to our collective understanding of the current situation affecting those being detained and separated.   As always, feedback is welcome!  Alex Johnson

Statement Concerning the Incarceration of Children and Adults
June 27, 2018

As an interdisciplinary, international group of health care practitioners, scholars, and experts in the field of loss and grief (including U.S. citizens), we are adding our collective voice in opposition to the current, continuing incarceration of children and their parents. The removal of children from parents can never be justified as a means of deterring migration, regardless of the driving forces. 

The family, in all of its different manifestations, is a core foundational unit of a stable society.  Separating children from their parents is known to have detrimental psychological effects for both children and their parents.  The effects of such traumatic stress can last for generations. 

Attachment, fostered within family systems, is a key factor in the physical, emotional and psychological growth and well-being of its members. Therefore, it is essential that all societies recognize their legal, moral and social responsibilities to respect, protect and fulfill children’s rights and needs within families. 

As members of the International Work Group on Death Dying and Bereavement we have extensive expertise in the areas of loss and grief. For children separated from their families, the resultant trauma has been shown to have profound, prolonged and intergenerational effects. For parents, the uncertainty of when or whether they will see their children again creates unbearable stress and grief.  The loss of a child is recognized as one of the most devastating losses one can experience. Families need safe and stable environments in which to effectively care for their children. Further, separation of children from their families has an impact on all inhabitants and is traumatizing not only for the affected individuals but also for the on-lookers; the children and adults for whom the current practice can also be traumatizing. The impact on law enforcement officers and other people charged with implementing a practice in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child must also be considered.

We urge all governments, including the United States, to:

  1. End the human rights violations of vulnerable people, including separation of children from their families.
  2. Rapidly reunite children with their families.
  3. Treat asylum seekers with the customary care and respect heretofore given to such individuals.

We call on governments everywhere – including the United States Government – to fulfill their obligations under the United Nations 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees towards all peoples who seek shelter and support outside their own countries of origin and, in particular, towards the most vulnerable of all: children. 

This statement was written by a group of concerned professionals in response to the separation of children and families entering the United States. This statement represents solely the opinions of the authors and signatories.

You have full permission to translate the document into other languages, and to distribute it via websites, blogs, the media, and other venues. It is our intention that the message be shared widely.

Contact Information:
Inge B. Corless;; (617) 726-8018

Inge B. Corless, PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN, Professor, MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston, MA, USA.
Susan Cadell, PhD, Professor of Social Work, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada.
Debra Wiegand, RN, PhD, FAAN, Associate Professor, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA.
Stacy S. Remke, Professor, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
Irene Murphy, MSocSc, CQSW, Director of Bereavement & Family Support Services, Marymount University Hospital and Hospice, Curraheen, Cork., Ireland. 
Andrea Warnick, RN, MA, Andrea Warnick Consulting, Guelph, Canada.
Carrie Arnold, PhD, MED, RSW, CCC FT Thanatology, King’s College, London, Ontario, Canada.
Lauren Breen, PhD, Associate Professor, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia.

Jane Skeen, MD, Auckland,  New Zealand
Phyllis Kosminsky, PhD, LCSW, New York, New York, USA.
Donna Schuurman, EdD, Portland, Oregon, USA.
Janice Nadeau, PhD, Private Practice, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
Kathleen Gilbert, PhD, Professor Emerita, Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana, USA.
Janet McCord, PhD, FT, Chilton, Wisconsin, USA.
Ida Martinson, RN, PhD, Bemidji, Minnesota, USA.
David Roth, Funeral Director, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.
Gerry Cox, PhD, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Salina, Kansas, USA.
Andy Hau Yan Ho, PhD, MFT, FT, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Mary L. Vachon, RN, PhD, RP, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
Catriona Macpherson, EdD, Children and Family Services, Scotland.
Daniela Reis E. Silva, MCP, FT, Associacao de Terapia Familiar de Espirito Santo, Vitoria, Brazil.
Ronit Shalev, PhD, The Center for Academic Studies, Israel.
Emmanuelle Zech, Professor, Universite Catholique de Louvain, Belgium.
Wendy Bowler, PhD, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.
Tammy Bartel, MA, RCC, CT, Private Practice, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.
Danai Papadatou, Professor of Clinical Psychology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
Chris Paul, Trauerinstitut Deutschland, Bonn, Germany.
Regina Szylit, Professor, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Betty Davies, RN, PhD, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Leslie Balmer, PhD, Psychologist, Missisauga, Canada.
Astrid Ronsen, Assistant Professor, NTNU, Fjellhammer, Norway.


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