Author Archives: Sana Z. Aladin

Where were you in camp? Japanese children interned during WWII.

By Martha Pott

“Where were you in camp?” I was standing next to my friend, Hiroshi (David) Yamamoto, who had just been introduced to someone who was also Japanese American. They weren’t talking about summer camp. Hiroshi was four years old when his family was interned at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, where he lived with his parents and two older sisters until he was eight.

After Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that incarcerated people of Japanese descent in internment camps in the western US in an effort to “curb potential Japanese espionage.” Those who were identified as at least 1/16th Japanese were given 6 days to dispose of their property and possessions. In fact, there were no charges ever brought against Japanese Americans for espionage or sabotage against the United States. Most of those interned were US citizens. Over half of those interned were children. In 1980, the US government established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), which concluded that Executive Order 9066 “was not justified by military necessity” but was driven by “race prejudice, war hysteria, and failure of political leadership.”

This photo shows the Mochida family in Hayward, California, waiting for a bus that will “evacuate” them to an “assembly center” and, eventually, a “relocation center. “The US government used identification tags “to aid in keeping the family unit intact during all phases of evacuation.” The father, Mr. Mochida, ran a nursery with five greenhouses, raising snapdragons and sweet peas.This photo shows the Mochida family in Hayward, California, waiting for a bus that will “evacuate” them to an “assembly center” and, eventually, a “relocation center. “The US government used identification tags “to aid in keeping the family unit intact during all phases of evacuation.” The father, Mr. Mochida, ran a nursery with five greenhouses, raising snapdragons and sweet peas.

David was the youngest child when he and his family were forced to leave their strawberry farm and home in San Jose, California and were sent to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, named for the mountain in the distance shaped like a heart. Originally part of the Apsáalooke (Crow) tribe homelands, the Heart Mountain Relocation Center was one of 10 camps that incarcerated 120,000 Japanese Americans in the west. Heart Mountain held 11,000. David’s family lived in drafty barracks surrounded by tall barbed-wire fences patrolled by armed military police. David and I visited Heart Mountain in 1981 on a camping trip where we found the barracks and laundry still standing, and a US historical marker indicating that people were “loosely confined” there during the war, that the camp was “equipped with modern waterworks and sewer system and a modern hospital and dental clinic,” and that “first rate schooling was provided….” This isn’t the way many remember it.

I recently wrote to David to ask him to reflect on that experience.  He first told me that most now use the term “incarceration center” rather than “relocation camp” or “evacuation camp.” Then, he wrote: “Our family splintered under the weight of incarceration.  My mother spent much of the time in the hospital. This necessitated my 12-year-old sister to be the surrogate mother to two younger siblings, a responsibility she greatly resented.   My father left the family to work on the railroad to raise funds…. Unknowingly I internalized all the stress, struggles and angst arising from how our family reacted to the incarceration.… [I]t took me the vast majority of my adulthood to understand and address unhealthy and negative consequences that subtly and not so subtly defined me.” David went on to say, “Not all is/was negative. Because of my background I am sensitive to racial and ethnic injustice and discrimination.”

Since David and I visited Heart Mountain, some things have changed. A new historical marker indicates more accurately what really happened there (see photo below). A Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation has been established with a mission to preserve and memorialize the site and the “stories that symbolize the fragility of democracy,” to educate the public, and to support the preservation of liberty and civil rights for all Americans today.

But some things haven’t changed. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism reports that anti-Asian hate crime in the largest cities and counties in the US rose by 164% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same time period in 2020 (Pew Research Center). In response, President Biden signed into law the bipartisan COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. Among many goals, the new initiative is charged with advancing equity, justice and opportunity for Asian American and Native Hawaiian Pacific Island communities with a comprehensive federal response to the rise of anti-Asian bias and violence. February 19 was a Day of Remembrance of Executive Order 9066.

Martha Pott is a faculty member in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study & Human Development.

Rekindling the Fire: Ideas for Action to Advance E-P’s DEIJ Work

By Matt Gee

It has been over a year and half since George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer. Many called the summer of 2020 a racial reckoning for the US, but despite all that energy, what has actually changed? Yes, small gains have been made. From 2015-2020, the number of people with the title “head of diversity” has increased by 104%. Some cities, including Boston, have proposed cuts to police budgets and reallocation to public health and housing services (though, there is some skepticism). However, there is just as much evidence of stagnation and even slide back. A study by Creative Investment Research found that of the $50 billion that companies pledged to “racial equity,” only $250 million has been spent on or committed to actual programs. Furthermore, a national study on white support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement found that despite a surge in support during the summer of 2020, one year later, support for BLM has not only fallen off, it has actually dropped below the level it started at.

Despite the bleak national scene, the situation at Eliot-Pearson (E-P) is a little better. The department has made strides towards Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ). A DEIJ faculty coordinator position has been created; faculty have been asked to review their courses with an eye toward DEIJ in consultation with Tufts’ Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching; anti-racism colloquia have been had. However, while these actions are good first steps, they are far from sufficient if racial equity and justice truly are our goals. Merely educating people about racism without honest introspection and bold reforms will not lead to the dismantling of racist structures that perpetuate racial inequality. What we need is structural and cultural transformation, not tinkering around the edges.

Below, I present a few ideas that I gleaned from three discussions on anti-racism in academia that took place in the 2021 Society for Research in Child Development Biennial conference. I have organized them under broad actions called for by Outley and Blyth (2020). Many other valuable ideas were shared at the conference, but I chose to highlight these because they were mentioned in all three sessions and because they are programmatic/structural in nature.

Encourage policies to foster interactive learning communities that promote cultural humility (Outley & Blythe, 2020, p. 10)

Action 1: Create third spaces (outside of classes and recitations) for people to do “the work” of deconstructing racism. For white students, faculty, and staff, this might look like learning about white supremacy and examining the ways that they perpetuate it in their work and interactions with others. An essential component of these spaces should be accountability systems for taking anti-racist action beyond just further reading and discussion. For students, faculty, and staff of color, third spaces may serve as a place for commiseration and/or unlearning white supremacy. Instead of treating these spaces as “add-ons,” they could be built into program requirements. For example, two hours of doctoral RA hours could be devoted to participating in these spaces each month, or faculty could integrate these spaces into their course assignments. 

Actively develop a pipeline of diverse scholars (Outley & Blythe, 2020, p. 9)

Action 2: Reform how we evaluate students who are looking for admission into our program, assistantships in our labs, recommendations for fellowships, etc. As gatekeepers of opportunity, we have the power to expand what is deemed valuable. To do so, I urge us to take a hard look at what it currently means to be a “good” and “successful” student and what it means for a student to “fit” in our department. One university in the Midwest has shifted their approach to graduate admissions. Instead of talking about the weaknesses of applicants, they start with the assumption that every student can be successful in their program. Then, to select students, they ask: “Where would our department fail this student?” “Where could we be most successful in supporting this student?” In doing so, assets are centered instead of deficits.

Reexamine past and current research narratives (Outley & Blythe, 2020, p. 7)

Action 3: Create a requirement that every student who graduates from E-P must take at least one class on critical race theory, and/or require that every E-P class has an anti-racist lens. An understanding of power and privilege, which profoundly shape our perspective and the lives of the youth and families we hope to serve, should be valued as much as research methods and statistics.

I know that any one of these actions will take considerable effort, but if we fail to act, we will certainly perpetuate the same systems that led to Mr. Floyd’s murder. I hope that this blog post sparks bold ideas and rekindles the fire of racial justice action we are trying to keep alive. Now, let’s get (back) to work.

Matt Gee is a doctoral student in E-P, a research assistant in the Development of Identity and Community Engagement Lab, and a member of the student DEIB committee. If anyone would like to discuss more or comment on the work that E-P is taking along these lines, he would be happy to be in conversation. The views are those of the author.

Starting Young: Reducing Overrepresentation of Native Americans in the Justice System

By Erin Walenta, Kaila Caffey, Catherine Quinn, Hanna Anderson & Jasmairy Marte

Native American people are the second most overrepresented population in the US justice system. Native Americans are incarcerated in state and federal prisons at 38% above the national average, and on any given day, 1 in 25 Native Americans over the age of 18 is involved in the judicial system in some capacity. Clearly, something needs to change.

As a whole, Native Americans are a very young racial group. 29% of Native American people living in the United States are under the age of 18. As such, juvenile justice issues are Native American justice issues; in order for the overrepresentation of Native American people in the justice system to be ameliorated, a major focus needs to be paid to reforming the juvenile justice system for Native American youth.

One of the primary ways to do this is to promote cooperation between state juvenile courts and tribal courts. The tribal court system has the potential to be truly transformative for Native American justice issues in this country. It focuses on restorative justice rather than punitive justice and, in doing so, prevents people who have committed minor offenses from becoming unnecessarily incarcerated.

Currently, under Public Law 280, there are six states in which those living on tribal land are under the authority of state governments: California, Nebraska, Alaska, Oregon, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In these states, there is typically a level of cooperation between the tribal government and the state government when it comes to ensuring justice is served. Judge Abby Abinanti, a judge for the Yurok Tribal Justice System, said that this often comes in the form of probation conditions. A person is sentenced to probation in state court, but one of their probationary terms is participation in tribal court. Judge Abinanti states that there is no such intertwining of the youth system and expressed how impactful such a thing would be in keeping Native American youth out of detention centers. As such, the suggestion to promote cooperation between the state juvenile justice system and the tribal justice system was born.

To some, this suggestion may seem overly specific. It would only really impact the Native American youth populations in these six states, leaving the juvenile justice policies in 44 other states untouched. However, it is in these states where it counts the most, given that Alaska, California, and Oregon are among the ten states with the highest Native American population.

This country and its justice system—not to mention its health care, foster care, and school systems—have failed the vast majority of Native American people living on reservations, and failed them terribly. There is no denying that. However, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the amount of over-policing, incarceration, and unnecessary separation of families in these communities. Focusing on juvenile justice is one of the most impactful ways to do this.

Works Cited

“Demographics.” National Congress of American Indians, National Congress of American Indians, 1 June 2020,

Golding, D., & Nesbitt, L. (2017). Tribal Justice . Docuseek.

“Native Lives Matter.” Lakota People’s Law Project, Lakota People’s Law Project, Feb. 2015,

“Tribal Population.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Dec. 2018,

The authors were part of a task force investigating Native Americans and the juvenile justice system as part of a spring 2021 Eliot-Pearson course, “Plugging the Preschool-to-Prison Pipeline: How Incarceration Affects Children, Youth & Families,” taught by Dr. Martha Pott.

Putting Out Wildfires: Consequences of a Staffing Drought in DCF Programs

by Amanda Koffink

 This summer I had the opportunity to work as a Residential Counselor in two different DCF-funded programs.  My first position was at a Short-Term Assessment and Rapid Reintegration (STARR) program. STARR Programs typically care for children upon their initial placement into custody of DCF, especially when children arrive under emergency circumstances. My second position was at the Home for Little Wanderers Waltham House. Waltham House is a long-term group home that specifically serves LGBTQ+ adolescents in DCF custody, typically between the ages of 14 and 18 years old. Many of the Waltham House residents are there because they had experienced homophobia and transphobia in foster homes and other group home settings when entering DCF custody. Additionally, many of the residents in this particular program entered DCF custody due to their original guardians disowning them after they came out as LGBTQ+.

As the end of my first day at STARR was approaching, a girl came up to me and said:

“Are you gonna leave us? Did we already scare you away?”

“No?” I replied with confusion

“Promise?” She asked.

“Yeah, why do you say that?” I asked.

“Well, every new staff member leaves us.”

As evidenced by the girl’s comments, unconditional love will always seem to be an oxymoron for children in custody of DCF programs, as their favorite staff go home at night, quit without a two-weeks’ notice, and never return.

A Journey Through DCF: From Emergency Removal to Permanency Planning

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) serves children aged 0 to 18, removing them from abusive and neglectful homes. When a caller reports to the DCF hotline that they suspect neglect or abuse of a child, the situation is investigated to determine if the child is in immediate danger. If this is determined to be the case, an investigation begins within two hours and the first home visit is conducted within 24 hours of the reported abuse (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, § Section 51b, 2021). In these emergency situations, from what I have witnessed, the child is often removed immediately and sent to a STARR program.

 Children generally remain in STARR for approximately 45 days until DCF determines a more permanent placement for them. The STARR Program is in a sense like Limbo, as the child awaits their fate. Like in Limbo, the child’s behavior while in the STARR program can play a role in determining where the child ends up afterwards.

DCF has been struggling to recruit and retain enough foster parents to keep up with the increasing rate of children being placed in the system. For this reason, following their initial placement in STARR programs, children are often transferred into long-term group home settings.

Putting Out Wildfires: Consequences of a Staffing Drought in DCF Programs

At the STAAR program, a child once proudly said to me “Wow, the police haven’t come in a long time.”  It had been three weeks since they last came. They almost had to be called the previous day too, when she got into a physical altercation with another child because she did not want to watch a certain movie. Thankfully, we had enough staff to restrain her without police presence.  However, if we had been short staffed, she could have gone into custody of DYS (“juvie”) because of a movie. A lack of staffing and failure to de-escalate children before criminal acts occur appears to be one of the main contributors to the DCF-to-juvie pipeline. The Walpole police department reports that a DCF program in their town makes around 270 calls to the police in a given year (Basu, 2020; Donnelly & Moser, 2018). As documented by the non-profit organization Citizens for Juvenile Justice (2018) “72% of the overall committed population had prior DCF involvement—85% of girls and 70% of boys” (p. 10). DCF programs face a staffing drought and thus, a program so deprived of stability that even a conflict as minute as a flame on a birthday candle might just spark the next wildfire.

My bosses at Waltham House, on the other hand, appeared more cautious about accepting anyone into the program who had a history of being violent towards others. In comparison to programs like STARR, who averaged hundreds of calls per year to the police, Waltham House had not used restraints on children in five years, and rarely had calls to the police. However, the staffing shortage was still extremely present, and youth were impacted in a variety of other ways.

Generally, when staff constantly come and go, youth are at risk of leaving the system without one consistent positive adult mentor in their lives and with the firmly held belief that they are innately unlovable.  The children in these programs, at times, appeared to be blaming themselves for the staffing issue, when it was ultimately a systemic issue, entirely out of their control.

Staff are given an extremely strict set of guidelines to follow and face the threat of severe legal ramifications for any shortcoming. Staff often receive minimum wage pay, are mandated for 16-hour shifts, at times lack sufficient training, and must consistently navigate communication mishaps with coworkers.

With these conditions, other job opportunities can seem more and more appealing. This is likely why DCF programs are constantly scrambling for staff. If they have staff who are paid enough to be there, and who have the commitment to stay, they can provide the youth with at least a glimpse of unconditional love, which a lot of these staff members truly have for the kids.


Basu, M. (2020, December 15). Children in DCF custody at 2 Walpole homes will be removed immediately after COVID-19 clusters. Boston 25 News.

Citizens for Juvenile Justice. (2018, July). Shutting Down the Trauma to Prison Pipeline.

Donnelly, A. & Moser, D. (2018, March 7). Walpole School Shuts Down After Years of Problems. NBC 10 Boston.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch 119 § Section 51b (2021).

Amanda Koffink is a Tufts senior majoring in Child Study & Human Development.