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March 1, 2023

Do You See Me? How to Support Children Separated from their Families

Event Series: Children in a World of Challenges Workshop Series

A child looking through a gap in the U.S.-Mexico border wall

Violent conflicts, natural disasters, and other crises force thousands of children from their parents and caregivers each year. In fiscal year 2022 alone, more than 152,000 unaccompanied migrant and asylum-seeking children crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in search of safety. While the dominant discourse around migration centers on law enforcement and border security, ensuring child-sensitive reception, care, and services–whether in displacement camps, border facilities, or U.S. public schools–is a critical aspect of the response.

This interactive workshop focused on how to support children separated from their families, no matter where they are from or why they have been separated. The session was appropriate for anyone who may envision a career working in humanitarian settings, border enforcement, public schools, or foreign assistance. The workshop highlighted the critical importance of centering children in our work by seeing them in their fullness–a whole child with a whole story. Workshop participants discussed direct practice, program, and policy recommendations as they consider the following:

  • How can we keep children safe, including meeting their emotional and psychological needs?​
  • How can we respect children, listen and respond to their needs, and include them in decision-making, especially about their future?
  • How can we treat children with dignity, understanding, and respect in the context of their own histories, traditions, languages, and cultures?
  • How can we strive to place every child with a family member or other caring adult in a safe and supportive environment?

This event was co-sponsored by the Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues; Walsh School of Foreign Service; Center for Child and Human Development; Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service; and Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University. It is part of the Children in a World of Challenges Workshop series.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Peg Hunter


Stephen Hanmer D’Elía

Stephen Hanmer D’Elía

Stephen Hanmer D’Elía is a research fellow with the Georgetown University Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues. He has worked and lived in over 20 countries. His experience includes leading UNICEF’s work with legislative branches of government and religious communities; directing education, youth, and parent support programs; overseeing the design, implementation, and evaluation of child protection and refugee programs in Africa and the Middle East. Hanmer D’Elía has been recognized with various awards, including an Aspen Institute Fellowship.