Statement on the Separation and Detention of Migrant Children

Jun 21, 2018

The Board of Directors of the National Academy of Education is deeply concerned by the recent incidences of family separations at the United States (U.S.) border as well as the continued detention of over 2,300 migrant children. The research base is clear that such parental separations and prolonged detentions are harmful to the well-being, health, and development of children, and we share resources to decades of empirical research and expert consensus studies pertaining to this issue below. We also uphold that whenever possible, maintaining family unity and a healthy environment for children is a fundamental, long-established, and internationally recognized human right1.

In particular, we endorse the statement authored by the Presidents of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering regarding the harmful consequences of separating families at the U.S. border. We concur with the National Academies’ assembling of compelling science in their statement that documents the immediate and long-term consequences to children and youth of traumatic separation from parents, guardians, or other significant familial members. The evidence suggests that these separations may create irreparable psycho-social damage to the affected children and youth. We also draw attention to research by the Society for Research in Child Development, which similarly documents the harm caused by family separation.

Although an Executive Order has been issued to stop this practice, this does not remedy the situation of children and youth already separated and displaced and ensuing trauma that may result from children and youth being deprived of physical freedom through detainment.

We urge that the highest priority be given to reuniting these children with their families, and as the U.S. continues to address this immediate crisis and formulate long-term solutions, we urge that migrant children be cared for in a manner that promotes their physical and mental health, well-being, and development.

Gloria Ladson-Billings, President
National Academy of Education

1See United Nations (UN) Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976), and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990)

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