Methods: The data for the study were collected through fifteen qualitative semi-structured interviews from professional service providers in the US. The participants included four refugee resettlement case workers, two refugee resettlement school impact coordinators, one cultural orientation leader, one refugee resettlement clinical counselor, four teachers, one parent/teacher coordinator, one school counselor, and one ESL counselor. All the social service and educational sector professionals interviewed had at least three years of experience working with MENA region families, with the majority involved for more than five years with this population. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using Nvivo 12 qualitative computer software. To ensure the rigor of the study, analytic triangulation, and peer-debriefing were conducted, and raw data were presented to explain the findings.
Findings: Analysis of the interviews reveal six main themes: 1) widespread acculturation stress; 2) gender and family roles and disparities; 3) risks of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), 4) stigmatization of mental health, 5) the lack of culturally competent services and training, and 6) the importance of community. The service professionals provided insight into how the families and students struggle with trauma responses while adjusting to a new culture. The service providers emphasized the prevalence of exposure to trauma experienced by IRs from these regions including violence, war, and difficult migration journeys. Yet few of the IRs exposed to trauma have sufficient knowledge about mental health and many carry misconceptions about mental health and attach stigma to mental health problems. Analysis of the data revealed that many educators and other service providers lack cultural competence and trauma-informed education when working with students and families from this population.
Implications/Conclusion: The study shows that an unmet gap exists between the needs of the MENA IRs and the actual assistance they receive. Findings from the research indicate that IR families from the MENA region experience acculturative stressors that require cultural competence and trauma informed responses from service providers, policymakers, and other important community members. The results emphasize the need for more culture-specific training, services, and interventions among service professionals so that the IRs receive the necessary support during the resettlement process in the US.