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The Effects of Toxic Stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences at Our Southern Border: Letting the Published Evidence Speak for Itself :

June 20, 2018

As pediatricians and as parents, we, like so many others in our country and around the world, are horrified and irate that children are being separated from their families at our southern border and placed into detention areas.

As pediatricians and as parents, we, like so many others in our country and around the world, are horrified and irate that children are being separated from their families at our southern border and placed into detention areas. The videos we are seeing, the sounds of crying we are hearing from these immigrant children, and the public attention to this tragic plight does not seem to be making a difference in ending this terrible situation. Instead, children are being used as political pawns in a battle that can only result in a losing position for everyone. Meanwhile, these children are being subjected to an intense level of toxic stress as they call out for loving and comforting parents who are no longer with them.

As editors of Pediatrics, we thought we would try another approach to try to convince those responsible for creating this adverse set of circumstances to stop the separation of immigrant children from their families. That approach is to provide open access to all articles that have been published in Pediatrics that describe the short- and long-term outcomes of toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences. 

We have created a link to a collection of all the articles we have published  (http://bit.ly/2ytgvPv) since the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, the Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Dependent Care, and the Section on Behavior and Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics published their landmark policy statement, “Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Role of the Pediatrician:  Translating Developmental Science into Lifelong Health.” (https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-2662).   Since this sentinel and much-cited policy statement was first published,  our journal has gone on to publish many articles on toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences, which demonstrate with solid research, the negative emotional and physical consequences of being placed into horrendous stressful situations, such as those occurring to these children. 

We hope that by opening these articles to everyone, it will become clear that placing children abruptly separated from parents in crowded detention centers is going to not just affect these children while they are kept there, but potentially will affect them for the rest of their lives.  These articles make a compelling argument that these children should be reunited with those who can love and comfort them as soon as possible.

While providing open access to every article on toxic stress we have published in Pediatrics for the past seven years may not bring an immediate end to this tragic situation, perhaps by educating all who are responsible for these immigrant children being separated and detained, the needs of children may be prioritized before the needs of politicians and in turn, this debacle will end and hopefully never occur again at any time for any child and loving family.  Enough is enough!

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