Background & Relevance
Decades of violence, food insecurity, natural disasters, and most recently, political disruption has caused widespread displacement among the Afghan people (UNHCR, 2022). There are currently more than 85,000 Afghan evacuees (with either Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) or Special Immigrant Parole (SQ or SI) status) who have been evacuated to the United States. Refugee children and families who resettle in the United States face dramatic disparities in theincidence and treatment of mental health disorders. Exposure to acute trauma related to forced migration, and war is common in this group, which research indicates raises risks of poor family functioning, mental health and psychosocial problems in children and youth (Betancourt et al.,2014). Responding to this critical need for trauma-informed, culturally-appropriate family-based mental health services, RPCA utilized funding from the National Institutes of Mental Health to partner with Somali Bantu and Bhutanese refugee communities in Massachusetts and Maine over a decade ago, creating the Family Strengthening Intervention for Refugees (FSI-R). The intervention takes a culturally responsive “whole family” approach to skill-building and psychoeducation to (a) improve parenting practices; (b) help caregivers understand the effects of trauma on family functioning and the risk of intergenerational conflict; and, (c) enable parents to advocate for and better navigate resources to address their family’s social, physical, and mental health needs. RPCA and University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) recently adapted the FSI-R program for use with the Afghan community. The work began with a trauma-informed, strengths-based needs assessment to inform cultural adaptation of the FSI-R to the needs of Afghan families who are resettling in the U.S in 2021. We then did an in-depth review of the intervention to identify areas for modification to best reflect cultural practices. We then adminsitered a pilot study of the FSI-R with 30 Afghan families in Maine.
Armed with the adapted FSI-R intervention, RPCA and UIC now seek to partner with the Office of Global Michigan and its partner refugee service agencies to bring the program to Afghan evacuees across the state of Michigan through training and technical assistance for refugeeserving providers. RPCA-UIC are ready to leverage a team of experienced interventionists to serve as a seed-team of expert trainers who have experience delivering the FSI-R to Afghan families during the pilot program in Maine. To encourage greater and widespread use and meet increased interest in preventative familybased strategies, RPCA-UIC will provide in depth training, technical assistance, monitoring and evaluation during all phases of the program.