Methods: Seven focus groups involving 20 community-based providers serving MYEA in the New York metropolitan area were conducted from July through September 2021. Participant eligibility criteria and recruitment included: (1) represent community agencies serving migrant youth populations; (2) work in the agency/organization for at least 6 months; and (3) be able and willing to consent. Participants were recruited via email, university social media posts, and snowball sampling methods. Providers represented social service organizations, schools, and community health and mental health services. Focus groups were approximately an hour long and recorded using Zoom technology. The focus group guide consisted of three main sections: identify community barriers to young people’s mental health; lived experiences in supporting migrant youth in their communities; and community assets to address specific issues of loneliness among migrant youth. Data analysis involved double-coding by pairs of trained research team members to generate initial thematic codes matrix. Upon completing the initial analysis, emerging content-driven themes and subthemes were reviewed, codes were reconciled and refined, and categories were developed independently.
Results: Across all focus groups, the theme of the importance of socio-emotional wellbeing of MYEA was discussed. There was consensus that the experience of migration itself to the United States facilitated social isolation and loneliness for migrant youth. Additionally, tensions between professional mandates and protections for migrant youth clients and barriers to supportive services including mental health and health services were described as roadblocks to supporting migrant youth’s needs. Providers identified three major themes related to community barriers that migrant youth and their families confront to engage in available services involving access, quality, and retention of services.
Conclusions and Implications: Young people’s exposure to adverse experiences such as anti-immigrant sentiments, poverty, and a global pandemic can all erode social support as well as exacerbate experiences of loneliness and social isolation. Future intervention strategies should focus on implementing and building upon community assets to support migrant youth and emerging adults through the transition to adulthood.