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Impact of Family Loss and Separations on Refugee Youth

This study examines how experiences of loss, disappearance or protracted separation of one or more family members due to war, conflict, and forced migration affect refugee children/youth and their families in terms of post-migration settlement and wellbeing. The project also seeks to build evidence on what kinds of services and supports can promote the wellbeing of these refugee children/youth and their families.

Our Research Goals and Methods
Our key research questions for the study are:

  1. How does experiences of loss, disappearance or protracted separation of one or more family members due to war, conflict, persecution or forced migration affect refugee children/youth and their families in terms of post-migration settlement and wellbeing?
  2. What kinds of services and supports can promote the wellbeing of these refugee children/youth and their families?

We will begin by conducting a scoping literature review to synthesize existing evidence related to post-migration effects of loss and separation on the wellbeing of refugee children/youth and their families. The scoping review will also look at recommendations from researchers on methodological and ethical considerations when conducting research on vulnerable refugee children and youth on sensitive issues like family loss and separation. These recommendations will be used to strengthen the methodological and ethical process for our study.

The primary data collection will utilize qualitative methodology that combines focus groups and interviews with refugee youth, parents/guardians, and service provider agencies that work closely with refugee families. We will conduct data collection in two phases. The first phase will involve focus groups with service provider agencies (two focus groups n=12-16) followed by focus groups with parents/guardians (two focus groups n=12-16) of refugee youth who have experienced loss and separations. During the focus groups, we will ask ESPOs and parents/guardians for recommendations on how to reach out and connect with target refugee children/youth (including those who are isolated and may not be connected to services) and how to engage and communicate with them in a sensitive way about difficult issues like how family loss and separation is impacting them. These recommendations will inform our outreach/recruitment strategies and interview questions for refugee children/youth.

The second phase of the data collection will include one-on-one semi-structured interviews with refugee youth (n=20). The study will focus on youth between the ages of 16-24 years. The recruitment process will also proactively reach out to refugee youth and children who came to Canada as “unaccompanied” or “separated” minors.

The data collection and analysis is projected to be completed by May 2019.

Our Project Team
This project brings together an interdisciplinary team of academics and services providers with a shared interest in the wellbeing of refugee families. The study is led by Serena Nudel (Program Manager, Mental Health and Wellness) and Dr Akm Alamgir (Scientist, Access Alliance) and Manolli Ekra (Senior Policy and Research Coordinator, OCASI). Amjed Abojedi is the Immigrant Insight Scholar coordinating this study. The study will also train and engage two refugee youth as peer researchers.

Our Knowledge Translation Goals
The key knowledge translation goal of the proposed study is to mobilize and share study evidence to inform progressive policy and program/service changes geared at promoting wellbeing of refugee children/youth and their families who have experienced family loss or protracted separation. Policy/service domains of interest for this study include family reunification and sponsorship, Canada Border Services Agency (on how to better support “unaccompanied” and “separated” refugee children/youth who claim refugee status at borders), provincial child protection system (for example, recommendation on how to support unaccompanied and separated refugee children/youth who are older than 16 years), legal and other support to enable refugee families to find missing relatives, and mental health services. In addition to a literature review report, a research report, and peer-reviewed journal publications, the project team will synthesize evidence to produce a plain language Best Practices Guide geared at service providers, and policy briefing notes to be shared with relevant government bodies listed above.

Our Funders
This study was supported by funding from the Child and Youth Refugee Research Coalition (CYRRC) project.

For more info contact research@accessalliance.ca.