Author Archives: Staff

E-P Faculty Call for Reinstatement of Deferred Action Policy for Immigrants with Critically Sick Children

Sometimes during these late days of summer, we choose not to pay much attention to the news. School is starting, and everyone’s moving around Labor Day. But we need to pay attention.

The Boston Globe reported on August 27 that the Trump Administration had abruptly changed a longstanding policy of granting medical deferral requests to immigrant  families whose children were receiving treatment in U.S. hospitals to remain in the country legally. Instead, families received letters from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that such requests from undocumented immigrants would no longer protect them from deportation while receiving treatment in the U.S. The letters warned that deportations would begin within 33 days; some families receiving letters found they were already partway through this period. You can read the letter families received on the WBUR website.

As grievous as this policy would be for adults dealing with life-threatening illnesses, it’s perhaps even more extreme in the case of children. As reported in Commonwealth Magazine, there are many children currently receiving treatment for cystic fibrosis, cancer and other serious illnesses at Boston Children’s Hospital and other medical facilities around the country whose families have been informed that they need to leave – and to leave treatments that are not available for their children in their home countries.

News organizations reported on August 30 that many elected officials, medical professionals and advocates for immigrant rights have called for oversight and commenced lawsuits to block this reversal of policy.

As faculty dedicated to promoting research about and practice with children, youth and families that focuses on health, inclusivity and equity, we are strongly committed to our support of families seeking critical care for their children. The health and well-being of children – allchildren – is key not only to our mission at Eliot-Pearson, but, we believe, for the health and well-being of our collective futures. We members of the EP faculty believe the “deferred action” policy should be revisited, and we join with the elected officials, medical providers and advocates who have called for review and oversight.

While the Trump Administration has partially reversed course and agreed to “complete the caseload that was pending” when they abruptly ended the policy in August, we believe the administration must find a permanent solution that is equitable and that enables children to get the care they desperately need, regardless of their country of origin.

Fantasy Play in a Refugee Center

Lily Samuel, MA Child Study and Human Development, working with students at the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School

by Lily Samuel, MA Child Study and Human Development

Surrounded by art supplies, cars, a marble run and a toy kitchen, I could be anywhere in the world. The children who enter this particular room are cheerful and curious but sometimes also scared. Where am I? I’m in the “Nest,” a place for children displaced or fleeing from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Eritrea, and a dozen other countries. Some children arrive with families, some arrive alone.

I traveled to Lesvos, Greece, last summer to do what I do every day during the year at the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School: play with puzzles, pretend to eat wooden foods and mix water colors on paper. As a Wertlieb Fellow, I worked at a community center called One Happy Family (OHF), which serves over 1000 asylum seekers who have fled from violence, conflict, or disaster. It’s just three miles up the road from Moria and Kara Tepe refugee camps on this Greek island nine kilometers off the coast of Turkey where some refugees arrive by washing up onto the shore with nothing in their hands.

The Nest is a space just for the OHF children, ages 3 to 8. My role was to manage the space and ensure the play remained safe. I soon figured out, though, that my more important role was to act as a spirit guide to help the children travel from their real world into the world of fantasy play. This was not automatic. A child entering the Nest for the first time typically examined every object and then dropped it on the floor. Those who had been there before bee-lined for the puzzle or set of blocks they previously enjoyed to recreate their work. Many children walked around adrift, and then I’d invite them to join me in a project or I’d simply accompany them in parallel play.

As a preschool teacher, I know play—especially dramatic play—often requires planning: What will I create? What role will I play? Play itself is often the vehicle for children to ask even more important questions: Who will I be? Where do I belong? As Brian Sutton-Smith wrote, “If play prepares the future, it is by creating more vigorous, active children who find in their play a dream of confidence that they can also manage their fate” (Smith, 146).

When humanitarian aid is provided to refugee populations, children are often considered an extension of their parents: if food, water, shelter, and basic healthcare are provided, their needs are assumed to be satisfied. The need for a space where children can take ownership of their fates is not understood. The Nest offers this space. It was not designed to be clinically therapeutic so young people could “work through” their traumas. It is a space for children to play: where children can step fully into a fantasy world and take control within the safety of the Nest.

Lily Samuel just graduated with her MA and was a Graduate Assistant in the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School. Her graduate work focused on how policy affects developmental outcomes for immigrant and refugee families. Lily’s work with refugees in Lesvos, Greece was funded by the department’s Wertlieb Fellowship, and was the topic of her presentation at the 26th Annual Fred Rothbaum Student Presentation Day on April 5th, 2019