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A message to the Erikson community

U.S. must stop inflicting trauma on young children at our borders

To the Erikson community,

Imagine that the violence and despair in your community is so perilous your best option is to leave, abandoning the only life you have ever known. Now imagine having to do this before you turn 4 years old.

After traveling thousands of treacherous miles, you finally reach what you believe is the safety of the United States border, only to have your parent, the constant in your tumultuous life, taken from you.

Tragically, this is not an imaginary scenario but a true story for escalating numbers of children, many of whom are very young, who arrive at U.S. borders.

In recent days, news of children being separated from parents seeking entry to the United States has sparked outrage from leaders across the political spectrum. It is a practice that has rightly been denunciated as cruel and inhumane. As an organization committed to the well-being of children and families, Erikson Institute joins these voices in their condemnation: This practice must end.

The most important developmental asset for any young child is a positive attachment relationship with a parent, guardian, family member, or other adult. After basic shelter and food, a child’s most critical need is connection to the adults in his or her life who can provide safety, stability and predictability.

With this in mind, we know that separating children, especially those younger than age 5, from their parents and guardians actually harms children. It could potentially inflict trauma that has a lifetime of consequences, including mental health challenges, academic struggles, and negative health outcomes.

Children’s well-being should be a universal, non-partisan issue, but too often we forget to keep their needs at the center of our deliberations and priorities. Doing what is best for young children is consistent with our values as a nation and humans.

And when we see a system that is inflicting harm on young children, we must all be advocates for change. We must be the voices for all marginalized children and call for the end to this damaging practice of separating young children from families.


Geoffrey A. Nagle, PhD
President and Chief Executive Officer

Erikson Institute faculty
Tonya Bibbs, PhD, Assistant Professor
Barbara Bowman, MA, Professor
Maggie Brett, AM, LCSW, Master of Social Work Director of Field Instruction and Career Services
Jie-Qi Chen, PhD, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs/Dean of Faculty
Ashley Curry, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor
Colette Davison, PhD, Dean of Students
Pam Epley, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor
Mary Hynes-Berry, PhD, Senior Instructor
Linda Gilkerson, PhD, Professor
Nucha Isarowong, PhD, Assistant Professor
Rebeca Itzkowich, MA, Senior Instructor
Florence Kimondo, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor
Jon Korfmacher, PhD, Associate Professor
Sarah Martinez, MEd, MA, LCPC, Master’s Infant Specialization Coordinator
Cassandra McKay-Jackson, PhD, Associate Professor
Gillian McNamee, PhD, Professor
Luisiana Melendez, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor
Amanda Moreno, PhD, Assistant Professor
Mark Nagasawa, PhD, Assistant Professor
Elizabeth Tertell, Senior Instructor

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