Hope Among Undocumented Immigrant Youth in Family Reunification: An Exploratory Study
Methods: In Spring 2013, The Children’s Hope Scale (CHS) was administered by program staff in English and Spanish. The CHS measures two components of hope: agency and pathways. One-hundred and thirty-eight youth, predominantly from Central America, from 20 affiliate programs participated. Respondents mean age was 15.51. The relationship between hope and program-identified risk factors present in over 50% of participants, including presence of mental health needs, prolonged family separation, history of trauma, and abuse in home country, was evaluated. Data was analyzed using SPSS 20.0.
Results: Of a total possible score of 24, 12 for each subscale, the range was 12-24 (M=19.72). Strong, positive correlations were found between the Total Hope and Agency (r=.848, p=.000, p<.01), Total Hope and Pathways (r=.831, p=.000, p<.01), and Agency and Pathways scores (r=.411, p=.000, p<.01). Abuse in home country was found to be significantly related to Total Hope Score (t=2.689, p=.008, p<.01), Agency (t=2.218, p=.028, p<.05), and Pathways (t=2.266, p=.025, p<.05). Other demographic variables and risk factors were not found to be significantly related to hope. Qualitative feedback indicated language and cultural barriers associated with the scale.
Conclusions and Implications: A high level of hope was found among participants. This could indicate that once youth have reunified with family in the U.S., they feel a sense of hope, regardless of their status as UAC. Consistent with domestic research, children that were abused in their home country had significantly lower levels of hope than children who were not abused. However other prevalent risk factors were not found to be significantly related to hope. Future research that aims to better understand this relationship could be an important step in creating services tailored to meet the complex needs of this understudied population. The strong correlations between the CHS and its subscales point to the validity of the scale for use with this population. However, implications for the cultural appropriateness of the scale, and other research procedures with this understudied population will be discussed.