world war II children separated from parents

Insights from World War II led to changes in policy to reduce the separation of children from their families

The evacuation of children from London for their protection during the Blitz created an unfortunate “experiment in nature” from which psychoanalysts such as Anna Freud, John Bowlby, and Donald Winnicott and others learned a great deal. Their observations of the effects on children deepened our understanding of the importance of primary relationships and continuity of care. This image poignantly captures the distress, bewilderment, and anxiety of children separated from those they love.

The insights gained during WWII led to enlightened approaches to caring for children in situations when they are apart from their families. Nearly 80 years later, the enforcement of the official policy of separating children from their parents when they are caught trying to enter the United States illegally was greeted with outrage and widespread protests until the President ordered it ended this week. The Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute supported the formal statement of protest issued by The American Psychoanalytic Association and recently joined other mental health practitioners and organizations in a petition to policy makers urging a more humane immigration policy.

Many Chicagoans will be marching Saturday at the Families Belong Together rally, hosted by Indivisible Chicago, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Women’s March, and other organizations, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Daley Center (check local news for details).