Foster America’s Statement on Families Separated at our Borders

Immigrant children and their parents are being cruelly and needlessly separated at our borders. We oppose this trauma and implore our federal government to expeditiously reunify separated families. Foster care is like chemotherapy: inherently toxic. We must work to ensure that foster care is a treatment reserved for children who truly need it to remain safe and healthy.

The Trauma of Separation

Separating children from their families causes irreparable harm. The toxic stress of separation creates chemical changes in the brain and body that have lifelong consequences. Decades of research shows that early trauma places children at grave risk of academic failure, unemployment, substance use, and mental and physical health problems like depression, diabetes, and heart disease.

Outcomes for Institutionalized Children

Many children separated from their families at the border are being placed into institutions, inflicting additional layers of trauma. Caring for children in these institutional settings is costly: it is expensive in the short-term and it produces the poorest outcomes for children in the long-term. Over the past ten years, the child welfare field reduced the number of children living in congregate care nationwide by more than a third. Research tells us children living in group care are the most likely to experience abuse while in placement and the least likely to experience successful outcomes in their educational pursuits and in adult life.

Necessity of Reunification

Before separating families, the federal government failed to create a reliable process for tracking family relationships and whereabouts to facilitate reunification. This must be addressed immediately. Reunifying families is a central pillar of our domestic child welfare system. Every additional day in foster care is an additional trauma and children deserve to be back with their parents as quickly as possible. If the federal government has the political will, a coordinated, active strategy could be developed to make this a reality.

A Movement for All Separated Children

This is not the first time our government has separated children unjustly from their parents. The current policy recalls our history from slavery to ‘boarding schools’ for Native American children, to the so-called orphan trains that relocated poor urban children to farm families. Across the country, children continue to be separated from their families today. For us, working in response to today’s crisis at our borders is a galvanizing moment in a larger movement for change. Foster America is deeply committed to building a child welfare system that strengthens families and pursues equitable outcomes for children and parents of color.

Taking Action

Many people and organizations are working vigilantly to help separated families. We encourage you to join the movement and support our most vulnerable children. Respected groups are maintaining action lists with ideas, from contacting representatives to advocating for children to donating to volunteering as temporary foster caregivers. Please visit the Emerson Collective, We the Action, Kids in Need of Defense, RAICES, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to learn more.

Foster America is working towards long-term, systemic solutions for our overarching crises in child welfare. You can support this broader vision by donating to support our work, signing up for our newsletter to stay informed, and considering service as a Foster America fellow.

What is Foster America?

Foster America is a national program that improves the lives of kids in foster care and children at risk of entering foster care by bringing new talent and innovation to the child welfare field. Our goals are to keep children safely out of foster care and to improve foster care for those kids who need it. We believe the same modern tools that pervade every other area of our lives can help the child welfare system achieve these goals.

Specifically, we recruit, select, and support talented professionals who bring new tools to foster care: analytics and technology, design and marketing, strategy and management, and public finance. Our fellows take 18-month leadership roles at agencies across the country that serve kids in foster care. In the short term, fellows lead innovative reform projects at their agencies that require their skills. In the long term, we're building a movement of fellowship alumni who will help transform the broader child welfare system.

We will begin recruitment for our next cohort of fellows in August 2018.

Hear More from Foster America's Executive Director on NPR

Listen to Sherry Lachman on Morning Edition speaking about the challenges after thousands of migrant children are sent to federally funded foster care.