Local trauma doctor weighs in on Trump administration's separation policy

Experts say separating immigrant families is 'government-sanctioned child abuse'

Kim Glovas
June 19, 2018 - 5:24 pm
Protester Melissa Houtte holds her sign while Sen. Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz address the media after being denied access to visit the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children on June 19, 2018 in Homestead, Fla.

Susan Stocker/Sun SEntinel/TNS/Sipa USA

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A local expert on trauma said the Trump administration's separation policy on illegal immigrants is harmful, especially to the children. 

Jeanne Felter, director of community and trauma counseling at Jefferson University, said she agrees with Colleen Kraft, director of the Academy of Pediatrics, who called the family separations "government-sanctioned child abuse."

"This is in no way a positive thing for children," Felter said. "I couldn't be further from getting behind anything we are doing here."

Felter said separating a child from his or her caregivers produces toxic stress, which can be harmful on a number of levels.

"High doses of stress in childhood — these toxic levels of stress in childhood can really compromise brain development, and it can lead to long-term negative psychological and physical health outcomes for kids," she explained. "The more stress that children face, their brains become so preoccupied with surviving, with regulating these unbearable conditions of their environments, and unbearable because they're unpredictable, because they feel insecure."

What makes it worse, she added, is the unpredictable nature of the separation itself. 

"There are pediatricians that work with children who experience high doses of adversity, and what they are seeing is adult diseases in children," she noted, including inflammation, diabetes and heart disease. 

Felter believes nothing good will come of this policy.