Center For Youth Wellness

Federal Immigrant Child Separation Policy Puts Kids at Serious Medical Risk

San Francisco, CA — Protesters gathered across the country last Friday to denounce the federal government’s practice of separating immigrant parents and children it apprehends at the border. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has formally opposed the policy, noting “the extreme stress of separation can have long-lasting impacts on children’s health.” The following is a statement by Chris Padula, Center for Youth Wellness Executive Director, in support of the AAP’s position:

“The medical consequences of the federal government’s immigration policy are severe. Children who are separated from their parents, held in detention centers and deprived of the support of safe and trusted adults may experience serious medical effects over the course of their entire lives.

Children who are exposed to serious traumatic events — like forcibly being separated from a parent or caregiver —  are much likelier to experience a biological response that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls toxic stress.

The biological response to extreme stress can adversely impact children’s’ developing bodies, brains, immune systems, and even the way their DNA is read and transcribed. This can put them at higher risk for cancer, heart disease, obesity and other diseases.

The federal government’s policy of separating children from their parents is not just cruel but also a threat to the life-long health of every affected child.”


The Center for Youth Wellness is part of a national effort to revolutionize pediatric medicine and transform the way society responds to kids exposed to significant adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress. Led by founder and CEO Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, we were created to respond to an urgent public health issue: early adversity harms the developing brains and bodies of children. In partnership with pediatric clinicians around the nation, CYW is working to ensure every young person is screened for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that we know can lead to toxic stress and lifelong problems with health, wellness and learning. We heal children’s brains and bodies by piloting treatments for toxic stress and sharing our findings nationally. We prevent toxic stress by raising awareness among those who can make a difference: from parents and pediatricians to policy makers.


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Center for Youth Wellness is not a crisis center. Those experiencing urgent medical or psychiatric concerns should dial 911 or their local emergency agency for assistance. We are unable to respond to messages requesting referrals, treatment or clinical consultations from individuals who are not our patients.