Archived Issue 5

ZZ’s Corner

Following last issue’s note, I received some encouraging feedbacks from my colleagues regarding the state of our young children in our world around us. The invisible and the silent ones – the youngest and most vulnerable among us around the world – the young children affected by wars and geopolitical conflicts who need our voice to be heard and our efforts to heal.

Energized by these encouragements, I decided to dedicate the “brief article” in a few of the following issues to the war-affected children and their ordeals. The “Impacts of Separation from Primary Caregiver(s) due to Social and Political Turmoil During Early Childhood” is the general concept under which I will share with you a variety of related topics. In this issue of the Baby Gazette, Types of Traumatic Separation Experiences Due to Systemic Violence that Infants, Young children, and Their Caregivers as Refugee Families May Have Experienced Prior to Arriving in Their Host Country.

The Impacts of Children’s Exposure to Systemic Violence in Developmental Context; Cultural Relativism vs. Universality of Impact of Trauma on Young Children – Ecologies and Complexity of Framing These Concepts; Impacts of Migration and Resettlement on Caregivers/Families’ Effective Relationship, Beliefs, Values, and Practices; and Cultural Competency, and Intervention Within the Cultural Context are some of the segments to be reviewed in the following issues of the Baby Gazette.

I hope you will join me to review and discuss these essential matters of concern to us all. Please send me your views, your comments, suggestions and creative ideas to

Brief Article


Universality vs. Cultural Relativism

Types of traumatic separation experienced by infants, young children, and their caregivers as refugee families due to systemic violence prior to their arrival in their host country

War’s short and long-term sequelae includes disruptions of normal social, political and economic patterns of life for all involved, especially the most vulnerable — young children –caught in its midst, and separated from their caregivers.

According to relief agencies, 85 to 95 percent of those harmed or killed in wars and social conflicts are civilians. Of those, about 50 percent are children.

Wars and social-political conflicts cause displacement of families, resulting in accidental separation of children from their families and caregivers (Action for Rights of Children (ARC), September 2002). In such a situation, children may be traumatized for one, because they may not understand what is happening to them.

  • Some of the reasons for accidental separation of young children are as follows:
  • Mass movement of the population and families’ flight when attacked may generate a chaotic situation resulting in separation of children from their caregivers;
  • Children may wander away from their caregivers;
  • Caregiver is arrested and taken away, injured or killed;
  • Police or other authority may take the separated children to safety of an institution without trying to reunify lost children with their families, or sending accompany information regarding these children along with them;
  • Children are abducted as forced labor, child soldiers, sex slaves, trafficking or ransom.

As part of a campaign of terror used in civil wars around the world, children are stolen from their families by one side or another. The strategy is to terrorize the families caught between the opposite sides of the conflict. The abducted and kidnapped children then are either used for military purpose, or placed in children’s homes as orphans. More than two thousand such Salvador ‘orphans’ were adopted during the civil war, many by families outside of the country. This act, made their reunification almost impossible.

Separation of children from their caregivers may be of deliberate nature; based on a conscious decision by the caregivers to send their children away. In such circumstances, caregivers have the opportunity to explain the reasons for separation to their children, and plan for the reunion. Nevertheless, impacts of separation may be traumatic and very distressing on children, the caregivers and the relationship.

Some of the situations in which deliberate separation of young children from their caregivers may take place are as follows:

  • Parents/caregivers sending their children away from the war and turmoil to safety.
  • War affected families under stress sending their children under the care of an extended family member or friends.
  • Parents abandoning their children during the flight. This may be true more in case of disabled children.
  • Children left behind by their foster families – caregivers, during an ethnic, religious, or cultural war/conflictual circumstance.
  • Parents-caregivers hand over the care of their children to relief agencies.

My observations showed that months and years of war saw hundreds to thousands of kids orphaned and their families separated, and life in camps brought hunger and disease, somatic and psychological disorders and complications.

At times, mothers and fathers are forced to make the tragic choice of leaving their young children behind, or sending them away in order to secure their safety, or save the rest of the less vulnerable family members fleeing. These parents of young children often feel responsible for their children’s ordeals because of separation while they are dealing with their own.

Young children separated from their caregivers are a highly vulnerable group.
Separation of young children from their caregivers — whether deliberate or sudden and unprepared-for separation — may have a profound impact on them.

Depth of the trauma and distress felt by the displaced and separated children cannot be measured solely by observation and/or medical evaluation. Separated children may be subjected to a host of challenges, such as:

  • A separated child may lose the care and protection of the trusted adult.
  • Basic resources, such as school, health care, friends and neighborhood and other social services disappear or become very difficult to access.
  • Loss of close and intimate relationships disrupts normal development, and is a major health risk factor for young children.
  • Hostile environments breed discrimination and prejudicial treatment of children because of their parents’ ethnic and cultural background separate them from their original family and cultural roots. This in turn, breeds feelings of victimization, generating hostility and resentment resulting in multigenerational victimization, violence, and conflict.
  • Separated children are vulnerable to hopelessness resulting from repeated loss, trauma, and victimization.
  • “Normalization” of violence because of the chronic violence associated with war and social-political conflicts places young children in an intergenerational continuing cycle of violence and trauma.

The young children who are separated from their primary caregivers and displaced due to socio-political turmoil and war, are at risk for further exposure to slave labor and trafficking, are detained, abandoned, abducted, raped, injured, abused, neglected, tortured, and/or witness human rights violations of their caregivers or others (systemic violence).

Tragic and multi-level sequelae of experiencing systemic violence among these children affect everyone involved; families, communities and the future of the world. Negative impacts of systemic violence and forced separations experienced by these children may linger throughout their lives (Werner, 2000; Perry, 2000, & 2001). A displaced and refugee child separated from his caregiver may also have witnessed frightening, violent and life threatening events, and may have experienced loss of a caregiver and or a friend, and destruction of his school, home, and security of a familiar environment. (ARC, September 2002).

Gender specific violence against female children and their mothers, used as a weapon in geopolitical conflicts and wars, is endemic and places them at the highest risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, forced pregnancy, lack of health care and pre-post natal complications (Women’s Commission, 2004; The Center for Victims of Torture, 2001).

Another major sequelae of gender specific violence is the high risk for emotional unavailability of the victimized mother for her children who need her attention and care most at these distress times, affecting the child-parent relationships, and placing children more vulnerable to multiple risk factors. Additionally, these children are constant reminder of the horrific violence and traumatic experiences their mothers have endured (Babies of Rape, by Lydia Polgreen, New York Times, February 11, 2005).

Group persecution, genocidal warfare impacts the families in multiple and drastic ways. For example, a child who was disabled because of prenatal or postnatal exposure to chemical warfare in her homeland is also a constant reminder of the family’s traumatic experiences. Additionally, a disabled child does pose various challenges for the child/caregiver dyad relationship, family’s move and resettlement, and coping process. Moreover, because everyone around the family is experiencing similar tragic violence and trauma, this makes the experience even more difficult to handle, and coping more challenging.

Emotional and psychological impacts of separation among refugee family members are experienced also when each parent is placed in a separate detention camp. This added negative factor affects the entire family at a time of high need.

A recent report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) indicates that there may be as many as 12 million children who have been forced to flee their homes. Such children who have lost their families during times of war and socio-political conflicts are in need of reunification with their families.


  • Action for Rights of Children (ARC), (September 2002). Save the Children Fund. ARC is an inter-agency initiative, initiated by UNHCR and the International Save the Children Alliance in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • Children of Conflict initiative was produced with the assistance of UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and the Human Rights Fund of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
  • Garbarino, J., Kostelny, K., & Dubrow, N. (1998). No place to be a child: Growing up in a war zone. Jossey-Bass.
  • Online Manual Helps Educators Work with War-Traumatized Children. (2001). The Center for Victims of Torture – Minneapolis, MN. View Profile.
  • Perry, B.D. (2001). The neurodevelopmental impacts of violence in childhood. In Schetky D & Benedek, E. (Eds.) Textbook of child and adolescent forensic psychiatry. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, Inc. (221-238).
  • Perry, B. (2000). Violence and childhood: How persisting fear can alter the developing child’s brain. The Child Trauma Academy.
  • Polgreen, Lydia (February 11, 2005). Darfur’s Babies of Rape Are on Trial From Birth. New York Times.
  • Werner, Emmy E. (2000). Through the eyes of innocents: children witness World War II Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children (2003-04). The Women’s Commission is an independent affiliate of the International Rescue Committee.

News Briefs

Upcoming TV Shows &
New CDC Campaign:
Learn the Signs! Act Early!

The following information is received from Margaret Dunkle.

This note is to let you know about several important TV shows coming up and a new CDC campaign, Learn the Signs! Act Early! All are relevant to our work on early identification and intervention for children who have a disability, developmental delay, or learning, mental health, social-emotional or behavioral problem.

An important part of “acting early” is routine high-quality developmental screening of all young kids. Screening tools the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Neurology cite as being high quality (and that are also cheap and quick!) are the PEDS (Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status) and the ASQ (Ages & Stages Questionnaires). Checklists, second-rate or unproven tools, and eyeballing just don’t cut it!

First, be sure to watch a special hour-long show – Autism: The Hidden Epidemic? – on NBC TV at 7:00 p.m. tonight (Saturday, February 19th). Filmed here in Los Angeles and featuring KNBC’s Michele Ruiz and Bruce Hensel, MD, you will recognize many of the people interviewed! For more information about programming and when to tune in for specific information, see the end of this email or

Second, check out the 11- (yes, 11!) part series on autism all next week on the Today Show. This series educates about the signs and causes of autism, how it is diagnosed, what educational programs exist, how autism affects families, and how parents of children with autism can be effective advocates. Segments will run at approximately 8:08 and 9:08 a.m. in each time zone.

Finally, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is launching an awareness campaign, Learn the Signs: Act Early, to educate parents about child development, including early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders. Health care providers can get a special Provider Resource Kit to help them talk to parents about child development. And parents can get a Parent Kit with information about child development and how to spot the earliest signs of a problem. For more information, see and also below.

I look forward to any reactions you have to the shows or CDC campaign!

Contact information for Margaret Dunkle, Senior Fellow
Department of Health Policy
School of Public Health and Health Services
The George Washington University
5383 Godbey Drive
La Canada, California 91011
Voice (office): 818-952-6485
Fax: 818-952-7920


A national campaign to increase awareness and action in the early identification of children with autism or other developmental disorders.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched an awareness campaign to help parents and health care professionals act early if they have any concern about a child’s development. The sooner a child gets needed help, the more likely that child will reach his or her full potential.

For Health Care Professionals

CDC has developed a Provider Resource Kit to help health care professionals answer parents’ questions about child development. Available in English and in Spanish, materials include: exam room posters, informational cards for waiting room displays, and fact sheets on age-specific developmental milestones and developmental disorders. From the campaign website – – you can see campaign materials, download them, and order them to be mailed to your office at no charge.
For Parents of Young Children

Parents can get basic information about child development and how to recognize the earliest signs of a possible problem from the CDC Parent Kit. When should a child make eye contact? Recognize and interact with objects? Begin to imitate words and actions? Parents who “learn the signs” are prepared to talk with their health care professional and “act early” to make sure their child gets help at the earliest possible moment, when it can do the most good!
Get the Parent Kit

Available in either English or Spanish from the CDC website – – or by calling 1-800-CDC-INFO. The kit includes a card with developmental milestones and questions to ask health care professionals, fact sheets, and a growth chart highlighting important milestones.
For Campaign Champions at the Local Level

To carry the Learn the Signs: Act Early message to your community, become a partner with the CDC campaign by contacting, You can sign up for campaign updates, download or order campaign materials, and get a training kit to work with local media to secure placement of campaign PSA, which you can also tag them with your organization’s name and phone number.

Website Hint to Get the “Act Early” Materials:

Go to the sidebar on the left – “Resources.” Then either “Download Materials” or “Order Materials”.

Just for Your Information

Training & Continuing Education

I received the following fellowship information from my colleagues at the World Association for Infant Mental Health (WAIMH)

FELLOWSHIP Child Development Unit of Children’s Hospital Boston – Harvard Medical School

For more information and online application visit:

Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship Program
September 2005 to June 2007
Edward Z. Tronick, Ph.D., Director
Kristie Brandt, N.D., Co-Director
I received the following email from the Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PSYSR)

Subject: [psychosocial] Training in International Trauma Studies at NYU
New York University International Trauma Studies Program.

Now accepting applications for: The 2005-06 Certificate Training Program In International Trauma Studies.

Early application deadline, March 15, 2005

For information, contact:

International Trauma Studies Program
New York University
155 Avenue of the Americas 4th Floor
New York, NY 10013
Postdoctoral Neuropsychology Certificate Program.

Felding Graduate University is accepting application for Fall 2005.

Contact information for further information is as follows:

Fielding Graduate University
2112 Santa Barbara Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105-9894