BU Wheelock’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee Convenes Panel on Family Separation

Photo courtesy of Dr. Michelle Porche

On December 4, BU Wheelock’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee convened an interdisciplinary forum on the impact of the Trump administration’s family separation policy specifically as it relates to children, families, and communities.

The event brought together faculty members from BU’s Law School, School of Public Health, and School of Social Work. The panel was moderated by Dr. Michelle Porche, clinical associate professor in Wheelock’s Applied Human Development Program. Panelists included Dean ad interim David J. Chard, Julia A. Dahlstorm (LAW), Lois McCloskey (SPH), and Luz Marilis López (SSW).

The event began with presentations by Jessica Koslouski, a doctoral student in applied human development, and Mercedes Muñoz, an undergraduate student studying psychology at CAS, who delivered an overview of the harm caused by this policy, based on research conducted in support of Dr. Lisa Fortuna’s AIM Project (Amicus Briefs for Immigrant Mental Health) at BU Medical Center.

After the initial presentations, each panelist discussed how family separation impacts children and families through the lens of their unique disciplines.

“We know that chief among the needs of children who have experienced this type of stress is safety,” said Chard, who encouraged the audience to look at the trauma tool kit developed by the state of Maryland.

Julia A. Dahlstorm, director of the School of Law’s Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Program, provided a legal analysis of the policy. In her remarks, Dahlstorm noted that “the zero-tolerance policy ended in June but the impact continues to radiate outwards.” She encouraged lawyers to focus on interdisciplinary partnership and be attuned to the fact that there are indications that the policy has not yet ended.

Dr. Lois McCloskey, associate chair and associate professor, Community Health Sciences and director of SPH’s Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health, identified family separation as a public health crisis. She said that the impact of the trauma caused by family separation “are profound, they last a lifetime, and they cross generations.”

Dr. Luz Marilis López, clinical professor and associate director of the Dual Degree Program in Social Work & Public Health, posed a question to the audience: “What can we do about this cruelty and injustice?” She recommend them resources including the Boston Medical Center’s Family Preparedness Plan and suggested getting involved with an organization called Al Otro Lado, an organization providing cross-border legal services for deportees, refugees, and families separated by deportation in Los Angeles and Tijuana.

The program closed with a question and answer session that covered how individuals could further help the children separated from their families. Several audience members shared the impact the policy has had on their own lives.

– Grace Hagerty