Method: 5 key role players in the refugee field and 8 refugee youth participants (ages 15-17 years) were interviewed. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with both sets of participants. The transcriptions of these interviews were analyzed using thematic content analysis. Coding and relating concepts was fundamental to the analysis process as the researcher continually asked questions and made comparisons (De Vos, 2010). Finally, the data was analysed in conjunction with literature reviewed and existing national and international policies on refugee children. Results: The analyses yielded descriptive information about the challenges faced by refugee youth being resettled in South Africa. Stressful life experiences identified include initial displacement, unresolved emotional wounds, xenophobia and secondary trauma. Migration was found to be a serious threat to refugee children during teen years; which impeded their growth and the reintegration processes. Survivor's guilt, emotional pain and resilience were significant in the refugee youth's life-stories. The relationships that were identified as having a major impact on their lives included: (a) reconstituted families, (b) with peers at school, (c) with God and (d) with the social worker. These were seen as stabilizing forces in their lives, as survival and coping mechanisms and for protection from exploitation.
Conclusions and implications: This study supports the ecological notion that refugees development during reintegration cannot happen in isolation, but in relation to supportive networks. The findings highlight the complexity of diagnosing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder unless a cultural formulation is applied since there were clear cultural issues impacting its presentation. Furthermore, displacement and subsequent resettlement pose unique cultural stresses that manifest in refugees as cultural bereavement. Social work therapeutic interventions must be integrated and should focus on the refugee's subjective experience of monumental losses and cultural vulnerabilities. The study offered a detailed picture on how life stories can be recorded during counselling as a way of reclaiming identities and furthermore how peer mentorship can be adopted in resettlement programmes. Training on refugee children's policies, procedures and protective interventions ought to be integrated into the social work curriculum.