BCSSW will team up with the University of Illinois Chicago, Department of Psychiatry, through a sub-grant partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), with funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement,to assess the needs, strengths, and challenges that Afghan families face during the resettlement process, in order to equip service providers with family support strategies. There are currently more than 100,000 Afghan evacuees who have been evacuated to the U.S.; 40% of the incoming Afghan population are minor-aged children and adolescents. This population has been exposed to acute trauma and dislocation all of which raise the risk of poor family functioning and mental health and psychosocial problems in resettled children. Upon resettlement in the U.S., there is additional risk and vulnerability due to resettlement stressors as well as other inherent challenges of adjusting to life in the U.S. BCSSW RPCA, UIC, and IRC will implement a multi-project approach to provide resources for culturally informed practices that service agencies can utilize to engage the community. The projects include: 1) Understanding Families' Needs and Strengths that Affect Youth Mental Health Among Afghan Families in Resettlement 2) Cultural Validation of a Mental Health Screening tool for Resettled Afghan Youth & 3) Research to inform delivery of mental health and family support needs that are specific to Unaccompanied Afghan Minors (UAMs) who are unified with sponsors among the Afghan community in the United States.
Findings from our phase one qualitative assessments at Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin in winter 2022 indicated problems with parenting, parent-child communication and family conflict and child and youth mental health and psychosocial problems as well as numerous family strengths utilized to overcome challenges including spending time together, praying together and teaching children and supporting their learning. Building on qualitative data from our phase one assessment, we conducted 100 free listing interviews with a purpose of gaining a broad understanding of the problems, strengths, service needs and resources among resettled Afghans, and 40 key informant interviews to gather more information about the mental health and behavioral problems of children identified in the free listing exercise and identify mental health syndromes in the community in Boston, MA at the Refugee Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC). These findings have supported development of a culturally validated mental health screening tool for Afghan youth.
As of now, there are no culturally relevant mental health screening tools specific to Afghan children and youth. We seek to develop this tool to better detect risks for mental health problems among this population using the local mental health related terms we identified in the previous project and provide resources for culturally informed practices that refugee service providers can utilize to engage the community through the Switchboard network, specifically working with Afghan youth. The tool will be tested on resettled Afghan youth for validity and reliability. Scope and and testing will include cognitive testing of the screening tool among Afghan youth and caregivers and then we will conduct validity testing of the tool to a larger sample of Afghan youth who have been identified as having one of the mental health problems and those who have not been identified as having the mental health problems and their caregivers. A subsample of youth and their caregivers will be randomly selected to complete the screener tool a second time to determine test-retest and inter-rater reliability.
Building off prior projects, the BCSSW RPCA team will build on the qualitative data gathered from the previous project that assessed the general resettled Afghan youth population in the U.S. to include Unaccompanied Afghan Minors (UAMs) We will conduct 100 free listing interviews with UAMs, aged 10-17, and their Afghan sponsors to assess strengths, needs, and protective factors for this population in resettlement in the United States. We will also run 10 focus groups, 5 with UAMs and 5 with Afghan sponsors of UAMs to learn and understand the context and lived experiences of UAMs. The research will add useful information about the context of UAMs to the results of a previous projects and will identify common mental health problems faced by UAM youth as well as expand the impact of the concurrently run research project Cultural Validation of a Mental Health Screening tool for Resettled Afghan Youth.
- Assess the needs and strengths of families as well as the challenges families are experiencing during their resettlement experience; Identify family support strategies that can be deployed by refugee service organizations
- Develop a culturally appropriate screening tool for the identified common mental health problems facing resettled Afghan youth; Validate the screening tool and test for reliability; Develop cutoff scores for the screening tool
- Assess the needs and strengths of UAMs and their sponsors as well as the challenges that UAMs are experiencing during their resettlement experience; Summarize what is known about psychosocial consequences of forced migration facing UAMs and evidence-based strategies for supporting these youth.
Relevant Media Dissemination
Through the entire multi-project work under the IRC partnership with Switchboard, BCSSW RPCA will provide technical assistance webinars, resources, and materials on what is known about psychosocial consequences of war and forced migration on children and the evidence for multi-level interventions and provide guidance for culturally informed practice with Afghan families that will be available on the Switchboard website for use.
The IRC received competitive funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant #90RB0052. The project is 100% financed by federal funds. The contents of this document are soley the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
This study is funded by a sub-grant partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) with funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement.