The Office of Refugee Resettlement commonly uses Self-sufficiency to measure the success of refugees in the US. The integration of refugee children in their host countries protects their human rights and advances their ability to participate in society. Compared to the US, there is more known about the integration of refugee children in other countries such as Sweden, Canada, Britain and other countries in Europe.
Educational attainment is an important predictor of economic success. Research shows that English, social networks, length of stay in the US, and citizenship status are predictors of employment for adult refugees. The purpose of this study is to examine the interrelationship of these factors related to economic self-sufficiency for youth, and is guided by the research question: What are the influences of country of origin, length of time in the URM program, educational attainment, English proficiency level, and employment, on self-sufficiency for youth aging out of the URM foster care program over the course of two years?
Administrative data from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s URM programs were obtained for all 392 youth who were discharged during FFY2015 or FFY2016. A path analysis model was employed to examine the relationships among the exogenous variables of: length of time in the URM program, and country of origin; and endogenous employment, English proficiency, level of education, and the dependent variable of self-sufficiency. In my conceptual model, there were 4 layers: 1) County of Origin and Length of time in care; 2) English; 3) Education and Employment; 4) Self-Sufficiency. This was not supported by the statistical analysis leading to an adjusted model described below.
Overall, the model suggests an excellent fit. Significant paths emerged from length of time in the URM Program to level of English proficiency (p<.05) and educational attainment (p<.05), from English proficiency to self-sufficiency (p<.05), from educational attainment to self-sufficiency (p<.05), and shows covariance between English and education (p<.05). The model is over identified and yields an insignificant chi-square (p=0.16) and a RMSEA of 0.063 with (X2(2, 184)=5.17, p>.05). The Goodness of Fit index (GFI) is 0.99 and the Comparative Fit Index (CFI) is 0.99. Fourteen percent of the variance is explained by the path (Length-->English), 11% of the variance for Education is explained by the model (Length-->Education) and 66% of the variance in Self-Sufficiency (Education & Employment & English-->Self-sufficiency). The 99% confidence interval also suggests a good fit (smallest=0.00, Median=0.00, and largest=1.75).
This research can help social workers to understand that while success in all of these areas is important, they may exist in a hierarchy of needs where self-sufficiency is the end goal. Additionally, education and English should be developed simultaneously. The results can be used to advocate for expanding the services provided to refugees and unaccompanied children to further economic self-sufficiency for future arrivals. Future research should examine appropriate indicators of self-sufficiency for young adults (aged 18-22) and the role that social connections can play in the development of English skills and access to employment.