In a perfect world, everybody working with an immigrant youngster coming to join their parents would be educated and aware of the possibility that this is a youngster struggling to develop a bonding relationship with their family that was lost through separation and the emotional cost of that situation for everybody in the family. In the schools, the counselors, the psychologists, the teachers, the administrators; in the mental health system, all professionals working with them; in the child protective agencies and youth agencies, in the courts and the probation systems; in the parent support and parent education organizations; in the youth recreational communities and youth mentoring programs, or youth advocacy groups; etc. Everybody would then understand that prevention is paramount before problems grow into a crises situation that could end up involving the legal system or the child protection organisms. Thus it is clear that our first job in the area of prevention is education on this issue. Again, in a perfect world, everybody working with these youngsters would be educated and aware that there is a risk that this is a youngster that may have gone through traumatic experiences either in his/her country of origin, during his/her trip through the border or maybe even at his arrival to a detention center. Perhaps there has been already some sort of psychological screening for symptoms related to this and the parents have been given advice on how to best provide support to the child, but most frequently this has not happened and the task then falls to the professionals available in the system taking this youngster under their roof.
A very important step in the direction of prevention was taken by the Leadership Council of the National Latina/o Psychological Association (NLPA), an organization to which this author is proud to be a member. Concerned about the suffering of the unaccompanied asylum- seeking minors arriving to the USA from Central America, and as a show of solidarity and advocacy towards them, three psychologists: Dr. Ivelisse Torres Fernandez, PhD, Dr. Nayeli Chavez-Dueñas, PhD and Dr. Andrés J. Consoli, PhD have developed a set of guidelines for mental health professionals and detention center personnel who provide services to the arriving unaccompanied minors, with the purpose of contributing to the overall mental health and wellbeing of minors while in detention. These guidelines have been published in the spring issue of Latina-o Psychology Today, VOL. 2-ISSUE 1, Spring 2015, p.44. As they state: “Neglecting the mental health of minors who are likely to have experienced complex trauma before coming to the U.S., during their journey, and upon arriving at the border, can have significant negative consequences for their psychological and physical well- being.”