Letter to Congress From the Child Welfare Community Regarding Treatment of Children at the Border

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi The Honorable Kevin McCarthy

Speaker Minority Leader

U.S. House of Representatives U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell The Honorable Charles Schumer

Republican Leader Democratic Leader

U.S. Senate U.S. Senate

Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

August 21, 2019

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell, and Leader Schumer:

The undersigned organizations, which are committed to the prevention of child abuse and neglect and the

well-being of children, write to express our grave concern with the ongoing treatment of children at the

United States border. As child welfare advocates with expertise in the impact of trauma on children, we

are deeply alarmed by the reports of government-sanctioned conditions and separations, which knowingly

expose children to emotional abuse and physical injury and draw clear comparisons to child abuse. We

urge Congress and the Administration to immediately end these abusive acts toward children.

Despite an official end to the Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy, recent reports have made clear that

the federal government continues to separate children from parents and other caregivers with whom they

arrive, including aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins. Reports have also made clear that the standard

of risk needed to justify a child’s separation from a caregiver is often not being met; therefore, the

government’s actions are decidedly not in the best interest of the child and causing serious emotional

harm. These ongoing separations are unjustified, unlawful, and deeply detrimental to children’s wellbeing.

Separation, detention, cages, deplorable physical and hygiene conditions, bullying and intimidation by

guards, and being held in enormous institutional facilities reflect traumatic practices in direct conflict with

what science tells us about healthy child development. Traumatic experiences, toxic stress, and prolonged

exposure to unsafe conditions, like those children are experiencing in ICE and CBP custody, have lifelong

consequences for children. The U.S. government must stop intentionally subjecting children to these

experiences, separating children from parents and caregivers, and holding them in conditions of

confinement that violate state child abuse statutes across the country.

It is unconscionable that the federal government would sanction conditions of confinement for children

that can be equated to child abuse as part of any policy. For both U.S.-born children and immigrant

children, the government has a responsibility to ensure safety and prevent an unreasonable risk of

harm. The current policies at the border do not meet this minimal standard.

We urge the Administration take swift action to ensure children are never detained for more than 72 hours

in CBP facilities and to ensure that all CBP facilities that temporarily house children provide safe

conditions that do not expose children to an unreasonable risk of physical or mental harm. We also call on

the U.S. Congress to take swift action if the Administration will not. The members of this Coalition are

ready and eager to join with the Administration and the U.S. Congress to consider how to best achieve

this goal.


Alliance for Strong Families and Communities

American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children

American Psychological Association

Boys Town

Buffett Early Childhood Fund

Center for the Study of Social Policy

Child Welfare League of America

Children’s Advocacy Institute

Children's Defense Fund

Children's Law Center

Committee for Children

DC Alliance of Youth Advocates

Educare Learning Network

Family Focused Treatment Association

First Five Years Fund

First Focus on Children

Foster America

International Social Service, USA

Juvenile Law Center

MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership

National Alliance of Children's Trust and Prevention Funds

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

National Association of Social Workers

National Center for Youth Law

National Child Abuse Coalition

National Children's Alliance

National Family Support Network

National Foster Parent Association

National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect

National Network for Youth

National Nurse-Led Care Consortium

National Respite Coalition

National Youth Advocate Program, Inc.

Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies

North American Council on Adoptable Children

Ounce of Prevention Fund

Parents Anonymous Inc

Prevent Child Abuse America

Ray Helfer Society


The Washington Children's Foundation

Voice for Adoption

Within Our Reach

Youth Villages

Zero to Three


Alaska’s Children Trust


Child and Family Resources, Inc.

Human Services Consultants, LLC


A Greater Hope


Alternative Family Services

Aviva Family & Children's Service

California Alliance of Child and Family Services

California Family Resource Association

Children Now

Cope Family Center

Family Care Network, Inc.

Five Acres

Futuro Infantil Hispano, FFA


Legal Services for Children

Safe & Sound

Saving Innocence

Temple Beth El

The Village Family Services


Illuminate Colorado


Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut

Children's Community Programs of Connecticut


Children & Families First


Florida’s Children First

Southern Legal Counsel, Inc.



Hillside, Inc.


Families First Counseling Services


Idaho Children's Trust Fund/Prevent Child Abuse Idaho


Alternative Schools Network

Children's Home & Aid

DuPage Early Childhood Collaboration

Erikson Institute

EverThrive Illinois

Illinois Action for Children

Illinois Collaboration on Youth


One Hope United

Peoria County Bright Futures

SEIU Healthcare

The Center for Youth and Family Solutions

YWCA Metropolitan Chicago


Family Service Society, Inc.

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana

The Phoenix Institute

The Villages


Children's Alliance of Kansas

EmberHope Youthville

FosterAdopt Connect

Kansas Appleseed


Kingsley House


Ascentria Care Alliance

Children's League of Massachusetts

Children's Trust, Inc.


Massachusetts Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

North American Family Institute

Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps


Center for Adoption Support and Education

Maryland Essentials for Childhood

Maryland State Council on Child Abuse & Neglect

Prevent Child Abuse Maryland/The Family Tree

Prince George’s County DSS

Prince George's Child Resource Center

Sweet Sorrel


Maine Children's Trust

Volunteers of America Northern New England


Bethany Christian Services

Catholic Social Services of the Upper Peninsula

Child Advocacy Program

Child and Family Charities

Child and Family Services Northeast Michigan

Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan

D.A. Blodgett-St. John's

Family & Children Services

Family Builders Network

Fostering Futures

Hope Network Behavioral Health Services

Livingston County Catholic Charities

Methodist Children's Home Society

Michigan Children's Trust Fund

Michigan Federation for Children and Families

Ruth Ellis Center, Inc.

Spaulding for Children

Starr Commonwealth

Teaching Family Homes of Upper Michigan

Wedgwood Christian Services

West Michigan Partnership for Children


Ampersand Families


Minnesota Communities Caring for Children, Home of Prevent Child Abuse MN

West Central Initiative


FosterAdopt Connect

Missouri Coalition of Children's Agencies


Prevent Child Abuse Montana


Nebraska Children and Families Foundation

Voices for Children in Nebraska

New Jersey

Advocates for Children of New Jersey

Cornerstone Family Programs

Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless

New Dover United Methodist Church

New Jersey Alliance for Children Youth and Families

Partnering for Prevention, LLC

Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey

Visions and Pathways

Zion Lutheran Church

New Mexico

All Faiths Children's Advocacy Center

The City of Albuquerque


Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada

New York

Catholic Guardian Services

Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (NYS)

Family and Children's Association

Family Service Society, Inc.

Ibero American Action League

Prevent Child Abuse New York

The Children's Village

United Neighborhood Houses

North Carolina

The Together Facing the Challenge Program

Child Care Services Association

NC Child

Thompson Child and Family Focus


Adoption Network Cleveland


Policy & Performance Consultants, Inc.


Child & Family Advocacy Clinic

Children First for Oregon

Children's Institute


Hacienda CDC

Old Mill Center for Children and Families

Parenting Now!

Pearl Buck Center

Prevent Child Abuse Oregon

Yachats Youth & Family Activities Program, Inc.



Delta Community Supports

Family Services of Montgomery County

Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research

Harborcreek Youth Services

Jewish Family and Children Services

Outreach Center for Community Resources

Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth & Family Services

Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance

Philadelphia Nurse-Family Partnership

Pinebrook Family Answers

Pressley Ridge

Union City Family Support Center

Puerto Rico

Proyecto Nacer, Inc.

Rhode Island

Adoption Rhode Island

Child & Family

Community Care Alliance

Foster Forward

Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT


Omni Visions, Inc.


DFW Foster Parent Association

Ella Austin Community Center


Sequel Youth and Family Services


Texas Pediatric Society, Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics


Braley & Thompson and Kids in Focus

City of Richmond, Department of Social Services

Families Forward/Prevent Child Abuse Virginia

Lutheran Family Services of Virginia


Prevent Child Abuse Vermont


Children's Home Society of Washington

Community and Family Services Foundation

HopeSparks Family Services

Partners for Our Children

Washington Association for Children and Families

West Virginia

TEAM for West Virginia Children / Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia

West Virginia Child Care Association


The Social Development Commission

Wisconsin Association of Family & Children's Agencies

Wisconsin Early Childhood Association