Voices’ Blog

Trauma-informed Policy: Keeping Children and Families Together

Posted:  -  By: Emily Griffey

We have been overwhelmed and heartbroken by the media coverage of children separated from their parents at border crossings. We echo the sentiments of the child welfare community, medical community, and political leaders who have called for a change in this practice. As many experts, including the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Colleen Kraft, have stated, this practice is traumatic for children and creates toxic stress for their developing brains.

At Voices we advocate for policies which aim to provide strong and safe families. We advocate for home visiting programs that help at-risk families navigate the financial, emotional, physical, and logistical challenges that come with being a parent. We advocate for kinship care arrangements that help children at risk of entering foster care, or already in foster care, stay with relatives. We advocate for responses to the opioid epidemic that include coordination of services to keep recovering parents together with their children. And we come to the table in mental health conversations from the perspective that parents’ mental health is essential to their children’s well-being.

The separation of children from their parents as a result of parental incarceration, death, divorce, or other reasons is considered an adverse childhood experience (ACE). Helping policymakers recognize that ACEs can have a long-term impact on the health and well-being of children is one of the key components of our advocacy. In all cases, we should work with our policymakers to reduce ACEs and childhood trauma as much as possible. Our policy agenda is reflective of these priorities, and we hope to bring even more partners together to amplify the conversation in the coming months.

We are grateful to the Virginia leaders who have voiced opposition to the practice of separating children and families at our borders. Opposing this practice is the right thing to do. We are optimistic these leaders will play the same role when it comes to making other decisions about child well-being as it relates to trauma. A better understanding of the impact of trauma, or ACEs, is essential to ensure  all families are supported in ways that are best for their children.

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