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SRCD 2009 - Lost Boys

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SRCD 2009 - Lost Boys

  1. 1. FOSTER PARENT SUPPORT AND REFUGEE YOUTHS’ ADAPTATION IN A NEW LAND: THE EXPERIENCE OF UNACCOMPANIED SUDANESE MINORS. Andy Saltarelli, Tom Luster, Meenal Rana, Laura Bates, Desiree Qin, Deborah Johnson, Katherine Burdick and Diane Baird
  2. 2. Adaptation of Immigrants and Foster Children <ul><li>Parents can play a protective role in immigrant adaptation (Sluzki, 1979; Suarez-Orozco, Todorova, & Qin, 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>Positive parent-child relations in foster care can be protective for children (Buehler et al., 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>Previous research on URMs has focused on trauma and deleterious effects of separation (Freud & Burlingham, 1943; Jeppsson, O., & Hjern, A., 2005; Ingleby, D., 2005) </li></ul>
  3. 3. Purpose of Study <ul><li>To explore the role that the foster parent-child relationship had in helping URM Sudanese youth adjust to life in the United States. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Would youth seek and develop affective bonds after not having parents? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How would parent-child bonds contribute to the youths’ adaptation? </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Overview of Presentation <ul><li>Overview of resettlement and context of placement </li></ul><ul><li>Sudanese youths’ perspective 7 years after resettlement (n = 18) </li></ul><ul><li>Foster parents’ perspective (n = 15) </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion: Conclusions and implications </li></ul>
  5. 5. A Journey Through 4 Countries <ul><li>Late 1980s separated from parents by civil war </li></ul><ul><li>Walked to Ethiopia </li></ul><ul><li>1991 Driven out of Ethiopia </li></ul><ul><li>1991 Displacement camps in Sudan </li></ul><ul><li>1992 Walked to Kenya </li></ul><ul><li>2000-2001 Came to U.S. </li></ul>Bol Riiny’s Journey :: Google Earth
  6. 6. Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) <ul><li>“ a person who is under the age of majority and not accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other person who by law or custom is responsible for him or her” (Ressler, Boothby & Steinbock, 1988, p. 7) </li></ul><ul><li>Afforded full protection under article 22.1 of UNHCR 1989 Convention </li></ul>
  7. 7. Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Foster Care Program <ul><li>Established in 1979 – US Dept of State refers minors through a network of programs. </li></ul><ul><li>Best Interest Determination Interviews in Kenya </li></ul><ul><li>Specialized foster care programs and services including: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Case Management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Life Skills Classes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Counseling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Educational Advocacy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mentoring </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Socialization/Cultural Events </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Serve youth from date of entry to 21 st birthday. Educational expenses to 23 rd birthday (varies by state). </li></ul>
  8. 8. Population and Sample <ul><li>500 Sudanese unaccompanied minors resettled in U.S. foster care </li></ul><ul><li>89 in Lansing MI area </li></ul><ul><li>18 (20%) interviewed about experiences in foster care 7 years after resettlement </li></ul><ul><li>Mean age 15 at resettlement </li></ul><ul><li>Mean age 22 at interview (range 18 to 26) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Recruiting Foster Families <ul><li>Recruit Foster Families </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Churches/Religious Institutions, Newspaper, Radio, Refugee Communities </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Provide Training </li></ul><ul><li>Monthly ongoing support to families and youth </li></ul><ul><li>Agency had limited knowledge of youth </li></ul>
  10. 10. Number of Placements <ul><li>Of the 18 youth: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>8 had one placement and continued to have a relationship with their foster parents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>5 lived with 2 foster families </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3 lived with 3 foster families </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2 moved to independent living after having a falling out with their first foster family </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In all, the 18 youth had 29 foster placements. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Current Relationship with Foster Parents <ul><li>15 of 18 youth reported currently having a positive relationship with at least one FP </li></ul><ul><li>Many of those positive relationships developed in the second or third placement </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s just real, real, real wonderful, you know. It’s just, I connect finally better.” </li></ul>
  12. 12. Eventual Appreciation for Parents <ul><li>“ I kinda miss them and I appreciate the things they were doing for me…I wish I would have listened to them at least some part of it. And now that I don’t live with them, our relationship is very good, like you know, I just called mom for anything and I just tell her everything.” ~ Sudanese youth </li></ul>
  13. 13. Success among youth and foster families <ul><li>High School Diplomas (18) </li></ul><ul><li>Bachelor’s Degrees (7) </li></ul><ul><li>Community College Programs (8) </li></ul><ul><li>Master’s Program Students (2 known) </li></ul><ul><li>Citizenship </li></ul><ul><li>Families, Children (4) </li></ul><ul><li>Employment </li></ul><ul><li>Long-term supportive relationships </li></ul><ul><li>A richer, more diverse community </li></ul>
  14. 14. The Sudanese Youths’ Perspective
  15. 15. Youths’ Descriptions of the 29 Relationships <ul><li>Positive relationship, instrumental support (n = 10) </li></ul><ul><li>Close relationship with affective ties (n = 13) </li></ul><ul><li>Not a Positive Relationship (n = 6) </li></ul>
  16. 16. Youths’ Descriptions of the 29 Relationships <ul><li>Positive relationship, instrumental support (n = 10): </li></ul><ul><li>“ It was a good experience for me. In the morning, (they) gave me a ride to school and when the school is done they brought me back home.” </li></ul><ul><li>Close relationship with affective ties (n = 13): </li></ul><ul><li>“ I did feel close to my foster parents…They treated me like one of their sons and their kids made me feel that I am one of their brothers as well .” </li></ul>
  17. 17. Youths’ Descriptions of 29 Relationships <ul><li>Not a Positive Relationship (n = 6): </li></ul><ul><li>“ My foster dad, he was just kind of a mean person to us.” </li></ul>
  18. 18. Adaptation: Youths’ Perspective <ul><li>What did your foster family do for you that you found helpful in adjusting to life in the US? </li></ul><ul><li>Help based on affective ties and relationship (n = 8) </li></ul><ul><li>Help based on instrumental within affective ties (n = 6) </li></ul><ul><li>Help based on instrumental support (n = 4) </li></ul>
  19. 19. Adaptation: Youths’ Perspective <ul><li>Help based on affective ties and relationship (n = 8): </li></ul><ul><li>“ We may be different in color but we are just all people…kids sometimes are kids…But, even with their children, it was the same thing [i.e. I was treated the same]. So, I just felt comfortable. And I feel like OK I have a family.” </li></ul><ul><li>“… she made me up today. That’s who like who I am. ..we just become connected, she did not say, ‘O these are not my real sons, so why should I bother.‘” </li></ul>
  20. 20. Adaptation: Youths’ Perspective <ul><li>Help based on instrumental within affective ties (n = 6): </li></ul><ul><li>“ so T was like, he was a father to make us understand America and make us good kids.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Them being there… trying to show me everything…it doesn’t matter what, whether they know it, but they were trying hard for my success.”   </li></ul>
  21. 21. Adaptation: Youths’ Perspective <ul><li>Help based on instrumental support (n = 4): </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think the one thing was they were always telling me I should be saving money…and that’s pretty much [all] that I learned.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Money management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Transportation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Educational access </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Acculturation </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Foster Parents’ Perspective: Fostering Sudanese Refugee Youth
  23. 23. Parental Help in Adjustment <ul><li>Tell me about what you did to help them make the transition to life in the US? </li></ul><ul><li>Deflecting Praise: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Attributed to youths’ resilience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Peers or other significant mentors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can’t control </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Parental Help in Adjustment <ul><li>Instrumental help: </li></ul><ul><li>“ You know, bank, opening up bank accounts…talk about time management…just kind of like adjusting to life here in the US.” ~ foster mom </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Prepare for independence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Acculturation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Educational maintenance </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Motivation to Become Foster Parents
  26. 26. Motivation for Becoming a Parent <ul><li>Compelled by Story, Empathy: </li></ul><ul><li>“… and I read about the Lost Boys in the newspaper, and I just really felt moved that I needed to do something” ~ foster mom </li></ul><ul><li>Creating or Replacing Family: </li></ul><ul><li>“ My goal was never to be a revolving door…I tell people they’re kids in need of a parent, and I’m a parent in need of kids” ~ foster dad </li></ul><ul><li>“… but I had a need really to parent more kids” ~ foster mom </li></ul>
  27. 27. Motivation for Becoming a Parent <ul><li>Lifetime Commitment: </li></ul><ul><li>“… a very common question I’d receive is, well how long of a commitment is this? And my answer always was, it’s a commitment for life, that’s the way I view it” ~ foster dad </li></ul>
  28. 28. Parent’s Description of Relationship
  29. 29. Parent’s Description of Relationship <ul><li>Parent-child relationship, affective ties: </li></ul><ul><li>“ I developed a really loving relationship with them…J had some post-traumatic stress disorder…I tried to make it very clear that I loved him.” ~ foster mom </li></ul><ul><li>Parental Attachment: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Okay being upset showed you that I was attached but it was like this is good news that their parents are alive, it’s not bad news, it’s really good news. ~ foster mom” </li></ul>
  30. 30. Current Relationships <ul><li>Distant relationship or no relationship (4) </li></ul><ul><li>Warm, friendly relationship (5) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Come home for holidays </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Call occasionally for help </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Loving relationship, active parenting (5) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Youth living with family, or returns there from college </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Providing instrumental or emotional support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Parenting grandchildren </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. FP Perspective: Challenges <ul><li>Differing relational expectations: </li></ul><ul><li>“ You’d think there were things going fine and then they up and do something like, ‘I wanna move’…you’re going like, ohh did I do…?” ~ foster mom </li></ul><ul><li>Struggle to connect, communication issues: </li></ul><ul><li>“ I felt like I was always trying to make it in, to be accepted as a friend…there always was a wall even to this year.” ~ foster mom </li></ul>
  32. 32. FP Perspective: Challenges <ul><li>Authority Issues: </li></ul><ul><li>Related to cultural differences </li></ul><ul><li>Related to mental health issues </li></ul><ul><li>Typical teen issues </li></ul><ul><li>Precocious autonomy </li></ul><ul><li>… with your college age, when they come home in the summer, you know you don’t have the same kinda rules you did when they were in high school, and that’s really more the kind of relationship ~ foster mom </li></ul>
  33. 33. Conclusions and Implications <ul><li>Seek relationships and develop affective attachment after 10 years </li></ul><ul><li>Affective attachment key in URM adjustment </li></ul><ul><li>Implications for placement agencies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to seek out new placements usually ended well </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understand differing expectations of foster parents and youth </li></ul></ul>
  34. 34. Conclusions and Implications <ul><ul><li>“ The major problem of being a child without a parent is that you always feel that you are missing something…that parental love from the family is not there. To me I missed that parental care. It made me feel that I am lost.” </li></ul></ul>
  35. 35. Acknowledgements <ul><li>We would like to thank the Sudanese youth and foster parents for sharing their experiences with us. </li></ul><ul><li>Support for this research was provided by: The Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station; Michigan State University Outreach and Engagement; The Department of Family and Child Ecology at MSU; Lutheran Social Services </li></ul>
  36. 36. Dedication Dr. Tom Luster :: 1953--March 15, 2009 Tom Luster and Sisimayo Henry Sisimayo becomes a US citizen -- November 2006

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