This symposium convenes three presentations on refugee youth who have been directly and/or indirectly affected by traumatic events. These presenters recognize not only exposure to trauma, but also the strengths of refugee youth, suggesting that researchers and practitioners consider resilience, positive effects of connecting with own culture, and opportunities for developing leadership capacity. The focus of this symposium is to understand mental health challenges faced by refugee youth, to recognize a source of resilience, and to further test a program that builds a capacity within refugee youth.
Shandra Forrest-Bank and her colleagues present the results of in-depth individual interviews with service providers (N=14) who work with refugee youth and families in various capacities in Tennessee. Five resulting themes convey participant perspectives of refugee youth and their families focusing on both strengths and challenges: trauma exposure, acculturation stress, impact on family, resilience, and behavioral health problems. Four service delivery challenges, such as system barriers, language barrier, cultural competence challenges, and service gaps, were also identified. Findings imply the inherent limitations of current service delivery system in responding to the needs of refugee youth and emphasize the critical importance of quality interpretation services.
Cindy C. Sangalang examined the associations between youth's knowledge of trauma-related family history, maternal closeness, and ethnic identity among adolescent children of Cambodian refugees (N=473). The results showed that knowledge of family history was directly associated with maternal closeness, which was directly associated with ethnic identity. Knowledge of family history was also directly associated with ethnic identity. The findings highlight the importance of family-centered interventions, such as education about one's family history and cultural past, that address intergenerational relationships, which can support the healthy adjustment of Cambodian American youth.
Diane Mitschke and her colleagues examined the experiences among Karen refugee youth in community –based participatory research. In a pilot education intervention program addressing teen dating violence, self-selected six Karen youth served as recruiter, interpreters, peer educators, and evaluators. Findings from interviews with these youth include self-efficacy, self-esteem, social support, understanding research, and intellectual curiosity. Findings suggest that involvement of this project as leaders brought in positive experiences to participating youth and educating them through current project may have potentials for community capacity-building.