June 2018… Twenty-first century… I can hardly believe I need to write these words after everything we know about trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), attachment, brain development, and implications for a child’s future wellness – physical and psychological. I’ve made many personal statements, but as the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health (WI-AIMH), I feel it is imperative that I address the U.S.’s current policy of separating children from their parents at our southern border. WI-AIMH’s goal is to support well-being of infants and very young children and it is only possible in the context of sensitive and responsive relationships.

What is currently happening in my country is morally wrong and will have detrimental, lasting effects on children, families, and communities. Separation is scary and painful, particularly in times of uncertainty and stress. Families that are being torn by inhumane, barbaric policies are fleeing their homes in search of safety. As a former refugee, I know and understand leaving home is the last resort; it is an extremely hard decision adults make after all other options have been exhausted. I still remember my father saying to my family, “For me, emigration is not possible, only evacuation”.  I can imagine how terrifying and traumatizing it would’ve been to lose the only people you know, who speak your language and understand you when everything around you is new and uncertain.  It is hard, painful, and scary for an adult – it is unfathomable for a young child.

This has to stop! We cannot turn away and pretend it does not affect us. History keeps the score, just like the minds and the bodies of the families we are hurting. Research is unambiguously clear about long-lasting, sometimes irreversible negative consequences of early childhood trauma that may impact more than one generation.

I personally ask all WI-AIMH members, friends, friends of friends to draw attention of the elected officials on the issue of separating families. The voices of sobbing, scared children, of mothers worried sick about their babies, of fathers/partners feeling helpless and powerless must be heard loudly and clearly.  Tearing apart families is wrong and must not continue!

Ways you can help:

ZERO TO THREE’s series on separation of babies from families

Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child’s Research Network on Toxic Stress

United Nations Human Rights Council


Thank you,

Lana Nenide, MS, IMH-E®

Executive Director

Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health

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