BU School of Social Work

Dear Members of the BUSSW Community,

We are reaching out to our community to share our outrage at the unfolding national crisis of migrant family separation and ask you to work with us to identify ways we can respond. In the last six weeks, as a result of the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance policy, more than 2,000 children have been cruelly separated from their parents at the border. Reports, images, and audio from the camps and detention facilities where a rapidly growing number of children are being held in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services have ignited outrage nationally and internationally from advocates, individuals, and professional organizations.

Approximately 9,000 mental health professionals and almost 200 organizations signed a petition demanding that President Donald Trump rescind his executive order directing the removal of children from their parents, and it worked. But although he signed an executive order stopping the separation of families, the damage has been done…and it will continue. Under the Zero Tolerance policy, families legally seeking asylum may continue to be detained and criminally charged. Equally disturbing, we don’t know where all of the detained children have been sent and neither do their parents. We must demand accountability to locate the babies, young children, and missing children whose parents who have already been deported.

We view these actions as unconscionable. We believe, as social workers, that the Trump Zero Tolerance child separation policy constitutes criminal child abuse. It is an affront to human decency and morality and constitutes state-sponsored terrorizing of children and families.  We also know that as each hour of separation goes by, children’s bodies continue to be flooded with stress hormones, thus creating long-term, disastrous injury and trauma for both the children and families who are separated.

Decades of research tells us that traumatic and forced parent-child separation immediately and permanently affects children’s brain development, educational attainment, mental health functioning, and long-term health outcomes – detailed in this Washington Post story. We also know that families seeking asylum are already traumatized from the circumstances that led to the migration and are exhausted by the journey to reach our borders. To forcibly separate families at this critical juncture is indefensible and inhumane.

As social workers, we devote our careers to pursuing social justice. Our NASW Code of Ethics affirms social justice as a core principle of the profession.  Many of us know all too well the tragic history of state-sponsored family separation policy in this country. We cannot repeat those ugly chapters in our US history when we separated slave families, moved poor children across the country, removed American Indian children from their families, and interned Japanese American families.

At BUSSW, we are determined to mobilize our resources including expertise in trauma, immigrant and refugee communities,  and professional networks to intervene in this crisis. In the coming weeks, we will share more ideas and information as the situation unfolds.

Ways You Can Help

Jorge Delva
Dean and Professor


BUSSW Dean Statement on Migrant Family Separation Crisis

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