The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Accompaniment in a Mexican Immigrant Community: Conceptualization and Identification of Biopsychosocial Outcomes

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 4:30 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 002A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Leticia Villarreal Sosa, PhD, Assistant Professor, Dominican University, River Forest, IL
Silvia Diaz, BA, MSW Candidate, Research Assistant, Dominican University, River Forest, IL
Purpose: Taller de Jose (TDJ) is a community resource center offering “accompaniment” services to residents of the underserved Chicago urban area of Little Village. The concept of accompaniment as discussed is often described as a process of restoring hope, “bearing witness”, and as psychological accompaniment in the context of human rights in Latin America. Incorporating elements of accompaniment as described in the literature, TDJ helps people navigate the often-complicated health, judicial, and social service systems through the process of accompaniment. They are a unique agency in that they are the only non-for-profit organization to offer direct companionship services to their clients by providing physical accompaniment to locations including medical appointments, court visitations, police departments, etc. Recently, there has been an interest in replicating this model. However, successful replication first requires determining the essential features of the accompaniment model, as well as immediate and distal biopsychosocial outcomes resulting from the service. The aims of the current study are to conceptualize and operationally define the services provided by TDJ, ascertain the essential features of the accompaniment model, describe and document client experiences with the services offered by TDJ, and to identify relevant biopsychosocial outcomes.

Method: Using purposive sampling, adults self-identified as former or current clients of TDJ were recruited to participate in focus groups.  Client focus groups were conducted until saturation of themes occurred.  Staff focus groups were also conducted.  Sessions followed a standard protocol, were audiotaped, and transcribed. Qualitative software, NVivo, was used for data analysis. Qualitative coding techniques such as thematic analysis were employed within a grounded theory approach.

Results: Six client focus groups were conducted with a total of 42 participants self-identified as Hispanic/Latino. Of those who provided socio-demographic information (n=38), baseline characteristics include: mean age of 55 years; 50% female; and 80% with incomes below $20,000.  Three staff focus groups were conducted, with a total 14 staff members participating.  The thematic analysis revealed three types of accompaniment: spiritual, physical, and emotional.  Using focus group data, the Taller de Jose model of accompaniment was developed.  Clients also revealed important aspects of using Taller de Jose services such as social support and empowerment.  Clients not only increased their perception of being able to advocate for themselves and access services, but also assisted others in the community to do the same. 

Implications:  Identifying the components of the TDJ accompaniment model are critical in assisting the agency to develop self-assessment measures and in replicating the model.  Research implications include developing research in collaboration with community-based agencies.  Finally, the Taller de Jose accompaniment has important practice implications for community agencies servicing a primarily undocumented Latino population.  Taller de Jose accompaniment services are not only critical in “connecting services to the people and people to services” but modeling a way of practice with a vulnerable population that is grounded in respect for the client, a firm believe in inclusivity, and an empowerment approach to practice.