Position Statement

It is the position of the Canadian Forensic Nurses Association that children are to be afforded basic human rights (United Nations, 1948). Forensic nurses have a responsibility to advocate for the respect, dignity, worth, and individual attributes of every child.

Statement of Issue

The relationship between parent and child influences the child’s emotional, physical, and mental well-being during their development from childhood to adulthood. Strong evidentiary research has clearly noted the impact of adverse childhood experiences and the consequences to individuals, relationships, community and society. Acts of separating parents from their children have consumed recent news stories. The separation of the child from their parent is an adverse childhood experience. This issue is global, long standing and knows no social, economic or political borders.

Association Position

The Canadian Forensic Nurses Association (CFNA) believes any action separating a child from a parent, guardian and or caregiver when the child is not in danger, places the welfare of that child at risk, causing irreparable physical, emotional and psychological harm such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Clark et al., 2010).)

CFNA recognizes the impacts and the consequential intergenerational effect of toxic stress, including increased risk of developing chronic emotional, physical and mental health conditions.

Forensic Nurses have health and safety as their underlying concern as they advocate for public awareness of the impacts of adverse childhood experiences and are committed to promoting best practice through holistic care.

CFNA is opposed to any policy that ignores and even encourages detrimental custodial actions, which can result in significant adverse consequences to the life and liberty not only of children but their caregivers as well.


Felitti stated in his 2002 study of 17,000 individuals “We have shown that adverse childhood experiences are common, destructive, and have an effect that often lasts for a lifetime. They are the most important determinant of the health and well-being “. Elias et al. (1996) stated regarding Canada’s Indigenous population: “The legal, archival and narrative record suggests that the removal of children from families and communities and their placement in residential schools had altered family and community bonds” as documented in the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples. Mok et al. (2018) have stated as well that “children exposed to parental separation have been reported to show poorer well-being and mental health during childhood and adulthood” and further “separation from a parent during childhoods strongly associated with elevated risk for later violent criminality”.

Human Rights and Health

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) addresses nurse’s four universal and fundamental responsibilities to promote health, to prevent illness, to restore health, and to alleviate suffering (ICN, 2012). “Inherent in nursing is a respect for human rights, cultural rights, the right to life and choice, and dignity, and to be treated with respect” (ICN, 2012). “Nurses advocate for equity and social justice in resource allocation, access to health care, and other social and economic services” (ICN, 2012).


Clark, F., Caldwell, T., Power, C., & Stansfeld, S. (2010). Does the influence of childhood adversity on psychopathology persist across the life course? A 45-year prospective epidemiologic study. Annals of Epidemiology, 20(5), 385–394.

Elias, Brenda, Mignone, Javier, Hall, Madelyn, Hong Say, P., Hart, Lyna, Sareen Jitende, (2012). Trauma and suicide behaviour histories among a Canadian indigenous population: An empirical exploration of the potential role of Canada’s residential school system. Social Science & Medicine, 74, 1560-1569.

Felitti, V., Anda, R., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D., Spitz, A., Edwards, V., Koss, M. & Marks, J. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4).

Felitti Vincent J. (2002). The Relationship of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adult Health: Turning gold into lead. English translation of: Felitti VJ. Belastungen in der Kindheit und Gesundheit im Erwachsenenalter: die Verwandlung von Gold in Blei. Z psychsom Med Psychother, 48(4), 359-369.

International Council of Nurses (2012). The ICN code of ethics for nurses. Geneva, Switzerland: Author. http://www.icn.ch/images/stories/documents/about/icncode_english.pdf. Le Scherban, F., Wang, X., Boyle-Steed, K. & Pachter, L. (2018). Intergenerational Associations of Parent Adverse Childhood Experiences and Child Health Outcomes. Pediatrics, 141(6).

Mok Pearl L.H., Astrup Aske, Carr, Matthew J., Antonsen Sussie, Webb, Roger T., & Pedersen Carsten B. (2018). Experience of child–parent separation and later risk of violent criminality. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 55(2), 178–186