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Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative (IL)

The Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative is a broad range of multi-sectoral stakeholders committed to expanding the understanding of trauma and ACEs and their impact on the health and well-being of Illinois children, families, communities, and systems. Through advocacy and mobilization efforts, we work to put the issues of ACEs, trauma, and resilience on the forefront of health equity in Illinois.

New Member of Congress—Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL)—brings laser focus on toxic stress at hearing on immigration


At a March 6 hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) addressed the impact of family separation on the mental and physical health of children at the border.  Her questions to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen focused on the impact of toxic stress caused by family separation on short and long-term health outcomes for children.  Sec. Nielsen was unfamiliar with the concept of “toxic stress.”

Here’s a short description of the 6-minute exchange from a PBS News Hour post:  "There are a lot of lawyers in this room," said Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., as she began to question Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about the practice of separating immigrant children from their parents. "And I'm not a lawyer, I'm a nurse." Underwood asked Nielsen several yes or no questions about whether DHS considered the physical and mental health of the children when they began family separation. Nielsen said she was not familiar with the idea of toxic stress, nor that it can change a child's developing brain, but broke in repeatedly to interject that kids should be with their families, and that parents shouldn't break U.S. law.

Rep. Underwood—the youngest African American woman to serve in Congress—represents a west side Chicago district.  Her professional experience includes a senior post at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) and work on the Medicaid program and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Last month, Dr. Jack Shonkoff of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child addressed toxic stress at a family separation hearingof the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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