Prevent Child Abuse Arizona stands against the recent policy of our government to forcibly separate children from their parents when they cross our international border.

The harm being done to thousands of children today is tantamount to institutional child abuse and neglect.

Forced separation of children of any age from their parents – their only source of safety, nurturance and stability – forces children to endure toxic levels of stress which can disrupt their sleep, their ability to eat, and eventually their long term health and development. Especially young children may quickly develop symptoms such as withdrawal, depression, incontinence, temper tantrums, inconsolable crying, loss of speech, and even self-harm under such conditions.

“The science is extraordinarily clear on the effects of toxic stress on children,” says Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Toxic stress is a result of multiple significant traumas over extended periods of time which are not buffered by nurturing, supportive relationships. The current policy of family separation by the United States Government is a “double-whammy” — not only does it create intolerable stress for children who have not yet developed resiliency and coping skills, it takes away one of the few key protective factors that might mitigate the impact of that stress.”

 “Toxic stress creates measurable changes in cortisol (“the stress hormone”) levels, and, over time, demonstrable changes in brain development visible on MRI,” says Dr. Navsaria. “This directly yields poor outcomes — mental health, yes; learning problems, yes; but also physical health issues that can manifest decades later.  This is detrimental not just to the children themselves and their families, but to all of us as a society, as we knowingly create conditions that we will be paying for down the road in a big way.”

Separating children from their parents at the border is forcing thousands of innocent children to pay a terrible price of our longstanding political impasse over the issue of immigration– and that price is their health and sense of safety. These children are being forced to shoulder the burden of our inability to create ethical solutions to our own adult problems.

 “When a strong and powerful country actively hurts children by separating them from their parents and uses separation as a punishment to achieve compliance to our laws by the parents, that powerful country is already failing,” says Dr. Robert Rhoton, CEO of the Arizona Trauma Institute.

“Through this policy, we are essentially saying we have no other strategy than the emotional torture of children to gain compliance and acquiescence from their parents. These are politically sensitive times, but there must be a better answer than to use children as a foil, children who quite possibly will bear the emotional scars of a powerful political force using them as pawns in a political game.”

We’re the adults, and our job is to protect children. Instead, we’re making them the casualties of our politics.

It’s up to us. We call on our national leaders to end this traumatic policy now, and to reunite the families they have separated.

When will these children be returned to the arms of their parents?