AGPA Public Statement Regarding the Policy of Separating Children from Parents

In concert with the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.N. Human Rights Office, the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) is calling upon the Trump Administration to stop its policy of separating children from their parents after crossing the U.S. border from Mexico.  The removal of children from the necessary attachment to their parents threatens them physically and psychologically. This dangerous violation of children’s human rights equates to legislating atrocity.

The American Group Psychotherapy Association represents over 2,000 mental health professional members including psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, as well as mental health, family, and pastoral counselors.  AGPA is committed to supporting the dignity and psychological safety of every individual without discrimination regarding race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sex, age, or disability. Central to our mission is a belief in the power of groups to treat mental illness, heal the scars from traumatic events, and enhance the well-being of adults and children in their families, schools, corporate settings, and communities.

The family unit is paramount to the regulation of stress in the face of violence, exile, and life threat. Without the physical, psychological, and social bonds of connection, research consistently demonstrates that children cannot regulate the stress that results from traumatic events. Attachment to parents is the most basic and effective regulator; this relationship is a lifeline.  The National Child Traumatic Stress Network specifically lists immigration and parental deportation as traumatic separations.  The imposed rupture of the parental bond is a traumatic assault of the child and puts the child at dire risk. The mandate to DO NO HARM has been shattered. We have owned the injustice and damage done by separating Native American children from their families and sending them to boarding schools. We look with shame at the Japanese internment camps, and we remember with horror the deadly separation of parents and children during the Holocaust.

We can’t forget, nor can the world.

In the face of a government policy that makes common practice the violation of children’s right to be with their parents, we are registering alarm and underscoring the need for a change in the Administration’s Policy.  To continue this harmful practice is to ignore what mental health practitioners and researchers have long established: attachment is fundamental to all other positive outcomes for human beings.  Its disruption has long-standing and irreversible impact and violates all that we know about mental health.

Developed by the AGPA Community Outreach Task Force Co-Chairs
Craig Haen, PhD, LCAT, CGP, FAGPA
Suzanne B. Phillips, PsyD, ABPP, CGP, FAGPA

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