Tens of thousands of refugees leave their home countries due to war and violence each year and resettle in the United States; 40 percent of those refugees are children. In an effort to more fully understand and mitigate the impact of armed conflict, displacement and resettlement on children’s development and well-being, the APA Task Force on the Psychosocial Effects of War on Children and Families who are Refugees from Armed Conflict Residing in the United States was created in 2008.
The group’s report, received by council at its August meeting, reviews the available research and notes that while children and their families caught in or displaced by war endure great trauma and adversity, they also demonstrate profound strength and resilience in their coping mechanisms and ability to adapt, often to completely unfamiliar environments.
More research on the multidimensional aspects of being a refugee is needed, concludes the report, but some treatment programs are showing promise, including comprehensive services, individual treatment methods, family therapy and group work in schools and community settings. Community engagement and collaboration and culturally informed practice are particularly important for the refugee client population, the report notes.
“Training for psychologists working with refugee populations should include non-traditional elements, such as interfacing and collaborating with other agencies, including cultural organizations not traditionally seen as ‘service providers,’ [such as community-based mutual assistance organizations] and working with language interpreters, cultural brokers and paraprofessionals,” the report states.