The Trauma of Separation

Media coverage of children being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border has highlighted the issue of childhood trauma.

Childhood trauma is the subject of much recent research and now informs good child welfare practice.

The short version is that experiences that cause children trauma are very common (see the Adverse Childhood Experiences website) and the impact can be lifelong (potentially affecting both the quality and length of a person’s life).

One common cause is separation from a parent or caregiver. This is true for children who come into foster care even if that parent previously caused the child to be abused or neglected.

The good news is that with help children can recover from trauma. Help comes through feelings of (physical and emotional) safety, adult support, and being made to feel children have some control over their lives.

The bad news for children in foster care is that they may not get support so they can recover. Not having a consistent placement or adults in one's life and feeling at risk of bouncing through foster care placements takes away exactly what children need to heal.

We hope that with increased awareness child welfare agencies will recognize the impact of consistent, caring adults on helping children in foster care recover and prioritize making those relationships possible for every child. We know what a difference caring adults make for DCFYI teens.

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