The family separation policy has separated at least 2,300 undocumented immigrant children from their parents and placed them in governmental care in shelters and foster homes across the United States. For young children in particular, the sudden and frightening removal from their parents is strikingly traumatic. Far from home, alone, and in a country where they do not speak the language, it is not difficult to imagine the feelings of terror and isolation these children must be feeling.
Timely and attuned intervention is needed to provide children with the support to understand what has happened to them and to help them manage the traumatic stress and feelings of danger that are likely to be overwhelming. Foster parents and shelter workers across the country have quickly been tasked with this daunting responsibility. It is not difficult to imagine how overwhelmed these alternative caregivers may be feeling.
Early childhood clinicians and researchers have developed resources to help those caring for recently separated immigrant children.
***The Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health has generously supported the project and housed the resources since the inception of the initiative. Please click HERE to access the original website.
A letter that presents the idea of SAFE Communication to assist alternative caregivers to help the children begin to make sense of what has happened to them and offers strategies to increase the children’s sense of safety and protection. This tool also provides concrete suggestions for bridging the likely language barrier between the caregiver and the child. Short and easily accessible, this tool is aimed at providing foster parents much needed support in their endeavor to help traumatized children.
A children’s story - Cecilia and the Long Walk - meant to help children understand their recent experience, providing language to help organize internal confusion and terror. The story is presented as a coloring book, with version available in both English and Spanish.
An audio recording of Cecilia and the Long Walk (Cecilia y la Larga Caminata) is also available on YouTube so that children can listen and watch the story being read in their native language.
Listen to the story being read in Spanish with English text.
Escucha al cuento en español con texto en español.
Listen to the story being read in English with English text.
A letter that presents the idea of SAFE Communication to assist agencies who are reunifying children with their families to help the children begin to make sense of what happened to them and offers strategies to increase the children’s sense of understanding and safety moving forward. This tool provides sample language to share with parents as they begin to help their children cope. Short and easily accessible, this tool is aimed at providing agencies much needed support in their endeavor to reunify children and families.
We hope these materials are helpful and we thank you for your part in caring for the children. As you find these resources helpful, we hope that you will share them with others. Please use #SeparationIsTrauma as you share on social media.
For questions or inquiries please contact us at Separatedchildren2018@gmail.com.
Julie Ribaudo, LMSW, IMH-E
Clinical Associate Professor
University of Michigan
Sara F. Stein, LMSW, MS
Social Work and Clinical Psychology
University of Michigan
Paige Safyer, LLMSW, PhD
School of Social Work
Arizona State University
Nichole Paradis, LMSW, IMH-E
Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health