The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

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

Service Needs Among Latino Immigrant Families: Implications for Social Work Practice

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 9:30 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 103A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Cecilia Ayón, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Maria A. Gurrola, PhD, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Background & Purpose: The future of Latino immigrant families is at a critical juncture. The social political environment impacting Latino families includes anti-immigrant legislation that has eliminated bilingual education and ethnic studies programs as well as required verification of legal residency in the country. While the economic crisis has left Latinos with unemployment rates higher than those found in the general population, 11% and 8% respectively (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). Latino families experience high levels of discrimination (Pew Hispanic Center, 2010) including racial profiling (Perez, 2012), family disintegration due to deportations (Chaudry et al., 2010), and multiple barriers to accessing care and assistance (Kullgreen, 2003; Snowden & Yamada, 2005) placing their physical health, mental health, and general well-being in jeopardy. This study sought to learn from Latino immigrant families what services they need to promote their families’ well-being within a context of stringent anti-immigrant legislation.


Methods:  Participants were recruited from a community based agency in Phoenix Arizona that provides services to Latino immigrant families.  Seven focus groups with 52 Latino parents were completed following the passage of SB1070.  Participants were first generation immigrant mothers (n = 45, 86.5%), of Mexican heritage (n=51) with an average of 3 children, and had resided in the U.S. an average of 11 years (SD = 5.690). A semi-structured interview guide was used to facilitate the focus groups on needed services to promote family well-being. Participants were asked for examples and probing questions as needed. Throughout the analysis a constant comparative approach was used within and between focus group transcripts (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). The transcripts were (re)read, labeled, and categorized using open coding. To enhance trustworthiness, (a) multiple coders independently analyzed the data and subsequently arrived at consensus regarding coding schemes and definitions; (b) member checks were completed with a randomly selected subgroup of participants (n=15 within two focus groups) to present preliminary findings and assess if findings were consistent with their experiences (Armour, Rivaux, & Bell, 2009); (c) quotes are used extensively to support the credibility of the findings.

Results: Findings reveal five major categories of need: mental health, physical health care, education, information, and community efforts. Immigration related factors such as documentation status, anti-immigrant sentiment, discrimination, and family separation due to deportation played a crucial role throughout their narratives. Their narratives reveal that families need assistance navigating systems of care, coping with discrimination and oppressive environments, strengthening ties among community members, and advocating for policy change.


Conclusions & Implications: The political climate has heightened the need for services among immigrant families (e.g., mental health services and advocacy support) while also creating additional barriers to services (e.g., use of discriminatory practices). In our mission for social justice we need to assess policies and practices that marginalize and oppress communities and look for opportunities to intervene and collaborate with such communities. Additional research is needed to assess the long term impact of anti-immigrant sentiment and exclusionary practices that prevent access to services on families’ well-being, including children’s development.