BUILD Initiative Blog | Children in Immigrant Families Under Dure
Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

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Recent changes in immigration policy are presenting new and intense challenges to infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families, and the teachers and programs that work with them. Families and programs are experiencing increased trauma due to the immigration climate. With funding from the Irving Harris Foundation, the BUILD Initiative is organizing a series of webinars and blogs in partnership with the Center for Law and Social Policy for providers, state policy leaders, and advocates. Please join the BUILD Initiative as we offer four webinars, from April through July 2019, that will provide important areas for consideration in the provision of trauma-informed care as it relates to immigration and US immigration policies. 

By Wendy Cervantes, Director of Immigration and Immigrant Families at CLASP and Rebecca UllrichPolicy Analyst, Child Care and Early Education at CLASP

The early years lay the foundation for children’s long-term health and well-being. Children need secure and stable caregivers, good nutrition, adequate medical care, and a safe place for them to learn and grow. Yet the current immigration policy context is directly threatening these foundations that children need to thrive and is imposing incredible hardship during formative years of children’s development. This policy-induced trauma can have enduring, even life-long consequences for children’s health and wellbeing.

Early educators and providers need to be aware of how recent policy changes are directly affecting the children and families with whom they work and what they can do to better support them. On April 24, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) will present the first webinar in the April – July 2019 BUILD Initiative series on trauma-informed care as it relates to US immigration policies and young children in immigrant families. Here is a synopsis of some of the information we will share.

Background and Context of Current Immigration Policies

Children in immigrant families are a large and growing share of our increasingly diverse child population. In 2017, 5.6 million children—1 in 4 children under the age of 6—had one or more parents who were born outside the U.S. Ninety-four percent of them are U.S. citizens.

Over the past two years, heightened anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric have taken a traumatic toll on children and families. For example, the administration has heightened enforcement in the interior of the U.S., attempted to terminate legal protections for immigrants previously granted protection from deportation, and worked to restrict access to public benefit programs that support children’s health and development. These policy changes have made many more young children vulnerable to being separated from a parent or loved one due to immigration enforcement, and are further threatening families’ health, wellbeing, and economic security.  

Immigration Policy Impacts Children and their Caregivers

CLASP’s field research with early childhood educators and immigrant parents confirmed that while young children may not be the targets of immigration policy, they are vulnerable to the harmful consequences. Children as young as three years old are acutely aware that they could be separated from the people they love most. Families are increasingly socially isolated and are making dramatic changes to their employment, living arrangements, and daily routines in order to avoid the possibility of immigration enforcement. Some are refusing publicly funded medical care and nutrition services and keeping their children home from child care or preschool. Parents are under incredible stress—and so are the early care and education providers working hard to meet their needs.

Support for Early Childhood Leaders and Practitioners

Early childhood programs play an important role in the lives of young children and their families. They provide children with a safe space to play, learn, and grow while parents work or go to school. They are also important connectors to other resources, such as nutrition, health, and parenting services. For families facing adversity, early childhood programs provide stability when everything else is uncertain. But immigrant families cannot reap the benefits of high-quality early care and education if they are afraid to attend or enroll, or if programs aren’t equipped to meet their needs. During this webinar, we will offer recommendations and provide resources for early childhood stakeholders to better support immigrant families with young children through policy and practice. Register here to join us on Wednesday, April 24 at 2:00 PM ET. Access materials and archived materials from this webinar series here.

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