The quality and collaborative nature of services within local educational systems are critical to the well-being and successful resettlement of refugees. Yet, little is known about how educators understand or respond to the trauma refugee families have endured. Nor do we understand, from the perspective of service providers, either the disadvantages around or the potential of integrated service delivery systems focused on supporting well-being and academic success among refugee youth. In response to this need, this research presents findings from qualitative interviews and focus groups with refugee service providers, with the aim of building knowledge about the factors that underlie the academic success of refugee youth.
Methods: This IRB-approved research is a collaborative project between faculty researchers and the primary refugee service provider in the Philadelphia area. The research team conducted twelve interviews and two focus groups with refugee service providers. Coders analyzed data utilizing conventional content analysis.
Results: Refugee service providers identified educational success as a major objective among refugees. Providers also identified multiple barriers related to serving refugee youth in schools. Refugee parents experience difficulty navigating educational systems due to communication barriers and cultural differences. School personnel often lack an understanding of these barriers and differences, as well as the profound trauma refugee parents contend with, changes in family structures, and employment demands. Refugee providers identified acting as advocates for parents and coordinating services within the school system as among their central tasks.
Conclusions and Implications: Findings indicate the necessity for school personnel to understand the communication barriers and cultural differences that refugees experience with the educational system, as well as the traumatic experiences refugees have encountered. Given our findings regarding the collaborative and advocacy duties described by providers in our study, providers can help the educational system understand the specific challenges that refugee parents encounter, thereby improving educational outcomes and well-being for refugee youth. Study results emphasize how refugee service providers are in a unique and pivotal role to educate and collaborate with schools, ensuring cultural competency in educational systems to better serve refugee youth.