Abstract: Leveraging Data for Social Impact: Uplifting the Stories of Latina Immigrant Mothers during COVID-19 (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Leveraging Data for Social Impact: Uplifting the Stories of Latina Immigrant Mothers during COVID-19

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Supreme Court, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Abigail Palmer Molina, MA, Doctoral Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Yuliana Hernandez, MSW, Medical Social Worker, University of Southern California
Dorian E. Traube, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Los Angeles, CA
Duyen Pham, BA, MSW Student, University of Southern California
Iliana Garcia, MSW, Social Worker, University of Southern California
Ferol E. Mennen, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color, particularly Latinx families. This study explored the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on economic well-being, maternal mental health, and family functioning among low-income, Latina mothers in Southern California, including undocumented immigrant mothers and members of mixed status families. The goal of this project was to conduct a rapid analysis to elevate the voices of this invisible community and provide timely and actionable policy recommendations.

Methods: Drawing participants from a parent study that provided a maternal depression intervention to predominantly Latina immigrant Head Start mothers in Los Angeles, this mixed method study integrated qualitative and quantitative data in a convergent design. Thirty-four mothers completed in-depth, semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. 76.5% of mothers were born outside of the US, in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Ecuador. Mothers reported having 1 to 6 children, and their ages ranged from 8 months to 26 years old. Quantitative measures included demographic information, access to safety net programs, COVID-19 stressors (COVID-19 Exposure and Family Impact Survey), maternal depressive symptoms (CES-D), and maternal anxiety symptoms (GAD-7). Data were collected between September and December of 2020, and interview transcripts were analyzed using a team-based template analysis in February 2020 to maximize both rigor and speed.

Results: Mothers shared overwhelming economic difficulties, with 82% reporting that their family income decreased, 47% stating that a family member lost their job permanently, and 50% reporting that they couldn’t pay their rent or mortgage in full. Stressors were compounded by immigration status, as undocumented mothers and members of mixed-status families were overlooked in major relief programs like the CARES Act and had to borrow money or drastically reduce spending to survive. Mothers also reported difficulty navigating through misinformation to figure out what benefits were available and how to apply, particularly because there were technological barriers and information was not available in Spanish. Stress spilled over into family life and impacted maternal mental health, with 56% of mothers scoring above the clinical cut-off for depression, and 27% above the cut-off for anxiety. Mothers reported concerns about their children’s loss of peer socialization, delays in academic and developmental progress, and worries about their children’s physical and mental health. Local programs like LA’s Angeleno Card proved to be a helpful temporary support for some undocumented and mixed status families, but most families continued to experience significant financial hardship.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest that Latinx immigrant families continue to suffer significant economic, social, and emotional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results show the stark disparities in health and well-being for this population and highlight the urgent need for targeted programs for Latinx immigrant families. A policy brief was created and is being disseminated to policymakers, media outlets, and other stakeholders, which advocates for 1) additional financial relief programs for those with precarious immigration status, 2) centralized county information hubs that can provide culturally competent care coordination, 3) enhanced school supports, and 4) expanded physical and mental health services for the whole family.