Abstract: Exploratory Study Examining Factors Associated with Family-Separation in a Refugee Community in India (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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21P Exploratory Study Examining Factors Associated with Family-Separation in a Refugee Community in India

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Nivedhitha Thiruvenkadam, M.Ed, Doctoral Student, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Anjali Forber-Pratt, PhD, None, Vanderbilt University (Formerly)
Caroline Christopher, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Ian Forber-Pratt, MSW, Director of Global Advocacy & Growth, Children's Emergency Relief International (CERI), San Antonio, TX
Connie Belciug, PhD, Executive Director, Children's Emergency Relief International (CERI), San Antonio, TX
Background: India has a significant refugee population and most services are limited to addressing basic living conditions and health care. There is little research addressing the issue of family separation, reportedly prevalent in 50% of refugee settlements. Research recommends family preservation that strengthens families through community-based services as an alternative to family separation. However, due to poor living conditions in refugee settlements, children are often placed in institutional/foster care. There is a gap in literature on factors affecting family separation within refugee communities in India. Therefore, a mixed-methods study with the objective of identifying factors affecting family separation and need for services aiding family preservation within a small refugee community in India was conducted. Access to the community and the data were provided by Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), an international non-profit agency working with the community. Results from analyzing secondary quantitative data of 55 families, and qualitative data from field observation and informational interview with CERI project coordinator are summarized in this poster.

Methods: The secondary data was originally collected by CERI using their structured needs assessment survey tool to understand the refugee community's family demographics and service needs. Supplemental qualitative data were also collected using sensitizing concepts from the survey to better understand the community needs and interpret the findings.

In order to identify the potential factors associated with family separation within the community, the subjective self-reported dependent variable, indicating parents’ perceived ability to fulfil their children's needs was operationalized to indicate family’s tendency towards separation. Family’s access to food and education, income, family size, parents’ marital status, prevalence of domestic violence and substance abuse, and access to public social welfare programs were identified as potential explanatory variables from the community survey and were correlated with the dependent variable to check for potential associations. SPSS, version 24 was used for quantitative analysis. The qualitative data were analyzed using structural coding method.

Results and Implications: Among all the identified explanatory variables from the survey, only parents’ ability to feed their children significantly correlated (r = .62, p < .000) with the dependent variable. Although the rest of the variables were not significantly correlated with the dependent variable, the qualitative data provides evidence for lack of access to basic needs and afterschool education, low income, family size, prevalence of domestic violence and substance abuse to be risk factors to family separation. Further prevalence of sexual abuse and incarceration were identified as risk factors to family separation from the qualitative data. The lack of statistical significance could be attributed to the subjective and self-reported nature of the dependent variable, and the secondary nature of the data. In addition, the qualitative data shows that some data were under-reported, especially in reporting domestic violence, substance abuse, possibly due to cultural taboo associated with few topics in the community survey. Additional primary data capturing the family’s tendency towards separation were not collected for analysis due to logistical limitations, privacy, and security reasons. Recommendations for services/intervention promoting family preservation in the community are discussed.