For the Parent, by the Parent: Creating a Program to Empower Parents of Refugee Background in Canada Using Novel Participatory Approaches

Children (Basel). 2022 Nov 24;9(12):1816. doi: 10.3390/children9121816.


Background: Families of refugee background have complex, multigenerational mental health and developmental needs that are not accounted for in current programming frameworks in Canada. Providing appropriate support services and educational resources that address the unique concerns of families of refugee background will allow for improved family cohesion and developmental outcomes for children. Parenting programs have been shown to be successful in improving parental stress, parental efficacy, and children's mental health and well-being. This study gathers data about the experiences of caregivers of refugee background in order to develop a novel, multi-dimensional parenting program model using Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) principles.

Methodology: This was a qualitative, CBPR study using a formative research framework. In-depth interviews (IDIs) were conducted with caregivers of refugee background and service providers that work closely with this population. Data were recorded, transcribed, and coded using deductive and inductive coding methods by two independent coders.

Results: A total of 20 IDIs were conducted (7 caregivers and 13 service providers). The main topics that were identified to be incorporated into the program include: features of child development, how to address resettlement issues, child advocacy, and parenting after resettlement. Participants felt that tackling language barriers, addressing the overlapping responsibilities of caregivers attending the sessions, providing incentives, increasing awareness of the program, and using an anti-racist and anti-oppressive approach was key to the program's success. Participants emphasized the need for trauma-informed mental health supports within the program model.

Conclusion: This study describes the key considerations for a novel parenting program for families of refugee background, by engaging them as key stakeholders in the program design process. Future iterations of this project would involve a pilot and evaluation of the program.

Keywords: child health; immigrant; parenting; refugee.