Monico joins teach-in to raise awareness on family separation policies and practices

After the "Taking Kids: Border Madness" Teach-in was convened by Columbia University School of Social Work early this year, California State University Monterey Bay School of Social Work invited Assistant Professor Carmen Monico to visit its campus in October as an expert speaker.

California State University Monterey Bay School of Social Work invited Assistant Professor of Human Service Studies Carmen Monico to a teach-in at the CSUMB campus as part of the teach-in “Taking Kids: Border Madness” that Columbia University School of Social Work convened earlier this year.

This national event has involved the schools of social work and human service programs at the University of Houston, Rutgers University and the University of Southern California (USC) hosted events in campus and developed papers on these important issues. In the coming months, adelphi, Michigan State University, Monmouth University, Seattle University, University of California Los Angeles and others have plans to take action in their campuses. Faculty from the University of Washington and NADD, an association for persons with developmental disabilities and mental health needs, will be developing a content hub to store and share materials produced for the campus actions in order to replicate learning and teaching on these topics.

Students attending Monico’s talk at CSUMB learned about her challenging but enriching journey as a minority student in a doctoral education of social work, which she and other cohort members have captured in a joint article in Reflections. Having grown up in El Salvador and eventually achieving higher education in the U.S., including two master’s degrees and a doctorate in social work, Monico pointed to the need to identify a clear research purpose consistent with the social justice goals of the profession, to enlist the support of supportive mentors, and collaborate with peers to complete a doctoral program.

Students had a unique opportunity to meet Monico privately and hear about her international bilingual research design and results on the experience of Guatemalan women whose children were stolen, trafficked and placed into intercountry adoption. Monico also stressed how critical it is to “give back” to the community by developing an inclusive scholarly agenda and returning to teach that community. CSUMB has a large student population that is first-generation college students and of Hispanic/Latinx heritage. 

Monico also gave a talk about human rights and immigration, particularly about the policy issues regarding forced family-child separation on the border. Her presentation titled “Madness on the Border: Parent-Child Separations” was a retrospective and perspective view of family separation.  Monico examined the 2014 humanitarian crisis, which she researched and published about with Elon Professor Mat Gendle in the “balloon effect” U.S. policies in the Central American Northern Triangle region have produced, which is one of key reason migration of unaccompanied children and children accompanied by family members. 

Monico explained how current immigration policies are not deterring migration because violence at home and in the community have been found major “push” factors of forced migration. She presented as evidence of that, the increased number of unaccompanied minors and migrant families from that region crossing the U.S. Southern border, which triggered a new human rights crisis this year, with an estimated 2,400 children forcibly separated from their families by the Zero-Tolerance policy.

Although this policy was ended with a presidential executive order, reunification of this group is still pending and resulted in nonprofit organizations and law firms working pro bono assuming the responsibility of bringing together the remaining 500 children are currently held in “child-friendly” detention facilities and under the auspices of adoption agencies. She explained how the international convention, national regulations, and legal orders are undermined with forced family separation, and the importance of getting educated on and responding to policies & practices violating the fundamental human and civic rights of migrant children and their families. Monico recently wrote a syndicated column about the issue for the Elon University Writers Syndicate.

Monico also lectured to CSUMB students of two trauma courses regarding the cognitive, mental, emotional, biopsychosocial, and developmental impacts of the zero-tolerance policy from a practice perspective. She engaged students in the application of basic trauma-informed interventions with the discussion of two cases documented by the media. She shared her own research related to the health implications of family separation, particularly among those parents whose children were abducted and trafficked into intercountry adoption. She also explained to these social work and counseling students the long-life implications to the well-being of children when experiencing trauma early in life, as evidenced is relevant research, including that on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) framework developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Monico will be presenting this fall at the COR forums on issues concerning forced migration and human trafficking, including forced family separations in the U.S. Southern border. Monico with other colleagues from various U.S. universities is working on 2 manuscripts on these topics, which are currently under review by the Journal of Human Rights and Social Work.





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