Children's Rights Litigation

Trauma Caused by Separation of Children from Parents

A Tool to Help Lawyers

Children are seriously harmed when they are separated from their parents. There has been quite a bit of research that proves that harm and outlines the specific ways that children are harmed. This tool is designed to help lawyers use that research in their advocacy. Whether you are a child welfare lawyer who wants to encourage a court to balance the harm of removing a child with the risk of abuse or neglect that the child faces by remaining in the home, a delinquency lawyer who wants to encourage a placement that preserves a child’s relationship with their family, or an immigration lawyer who wants to emphasize the damage done when a child is separated from his or her parents, this information is laid out in a way that allows you to easily use the research. If you have an additional resource to be added or you would like to give feedback on this tool generally, please contact Cathy Krebs

This tool was created by the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this document including DLA Piper LLP (US); Andrew Cohen, Dir. of Appellate Panel, Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services, Children & Family Law Division; Aylin Corapcioglu and Mariel Smith, Legal Interns, Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services, Children & Family Law Division; and Krista Ellis, former legal intern, American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law.

© 2019 American Bar Association.  May be reproduced, displayed, and distributed with the following credit: © 2018 American Bar Association.  Reproduced with permission.

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association and, accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.  Nothing contained in this book is to be considered as the rendering of legal advice for specific cases, and readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel.

Information is up to date as of May 2019. 

Full memo (PDF link)
Full memo (Microsoft Word link)
Executive Summary
Talking Points for Trial and Appellate Lawyers in Child Welfare Cases
Talking Points for Lawyers in Immigration Cases
Talking Points for Juvenile Defenders in Juvenile Justice Cases
Talking Points for Lawyers in Cases in which a Parent is Incarcerated

Research on the Harm Resulting from Separation
of Parent and Child

Resources for Parents and Children Facing Removal

The Effects of Toxic Stress on Children

Additional Resources