AOTA Raises Critical Concerns About Effects of Separating Children From Families

Occupational therapy has a longstanding commitment to the health and well-being of children and families. An important part of this commitment is supporting the humane, safe, and proper treatment of children in the context of their families, environments, and occupations. The available reports about the treatment of children attempting to enter the United States raise grave concerns about the trauma these children and their families may be experiencing and what it means for their future mental and physical health.

Occupational therapy practitioners understand the impact of trauma, and AOTA, as the national association for the profession, expresses its serious concern that all children and their families must be protected from harmful situations. AOTA’s Societal Statement on Stress, Trauma, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder states, “the impact of trauma is considered to be a significant public health problem, having a pervasive influence on health, wellness, and the ability to safely and functionally participate in everyday roles, routines, and occupations.” The statement reinforces that trauma “overwhelms the capacity to cope” and can be caused by experiencing adverse experiences across the lifespan.

As a science-driven and evidence-based profession, AOTA looks to the research cited by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, which states that, “healthy development can be derailed by excessive or prolonged activation of stress response systems in the body and brain. Such toxic stress can have damaging effects on learning, behavior, and health across the lifespan.”

AOTA President Amy Lamb stated, “AOTA encourages all members of Congress to take action necessary to stop separating children and their families to reduce their stress and trauma.”

Other AOTA Societal Statements, which “identify a societal issue of concern; state how the issue affects the participation of individuals, families, groups, or communities in society; and may offer action to be taken by individuals, groups, or communities,” include Livable CommunitiesDisaster Response and Risk Reduction; and Youth Violence. You can access all of them here. Another important resource is AOTA’s School Mental Health Toolkit: Childhood Trauma.

Members may use these materials to express their individual concerns to the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the President. You can use AOTA’s Legislative Action Center to write to your Federal Representatives about this issue. Select “Write Your Own” under the “Take Action” tab.

Societal statements are developed through Representative Assembly (RA). RA motions can be submitted by any AOTA member or Representative. Should you want to submit a motion, the instructions are here. You can also contact your state’s RA representative to discuss a motion.