Supporting an Important Victory for Separated Families

This summer we filed a legal brief in support of a suit to compel the federal government to provide mental health services to children and parents suffering from trauma after their unconscionable separation at our southern border.

As experts in child welfare law, we made clear that the legal standards for the treatment of children—even in connection with the lawful removal of children from their parents—all require focused mental health care, a consistent effort to reunite families, and active protection of children’s health and best interests. While the government maintained that its practices were akin to foster care and informed by child welfare best practices, we showed that its practices provided neither the due process nor the proper care required by child welfare standards. 

Now in a tremendous victory, the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles has ruled that the government must provide mental health services to address the psychological harm that it has caused by its separation of families.

In a 50-page decision, the Honorable John A. Kronstadt explained that the evidence showed that “separating parents from children causes severe mental trauma that is aggravated if it is not timely treated.” The court also cited evidence that the government did not respond to the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety of the families in its custody, and that it intended to deter immigration by implementing a family separation policy that it knew could cause severe mental trauma.

The decision requires the government to immediately offer mental health screenings, conducted by competent professionals, and mental health services to all the forcibly separated families who wish to participate. 

We are honored to have worked closely with and been represented by our dedicated, pro bono co-counsel, Irell & Manella LLP, and to support the suit brought by our community partners Public Counsel and Sidley Austin LLP, to obtain critical mental health treatment for families who sought entry into the United States. No relief could fully cure the harm caused by forcibly separating children and parents, but we are gratified to have helped alleviate this harm for the affected families.

Thank you for your continued support to champion our work to protect the rights of underserved children and families!