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Understanding Immigration Trauma and the Potential of Home Visiting Among Immigrant and Refugee Families

by Aimee Hilado, Christine Leow, and Yinmei Yang

Abstract

This article examines the outcomes of implementing a trauma-informed home visiting program in a refugee/immigrant-serving mental health program in Chicago, Illinois. The mental health program used the Baby TALK home visiting program model, an evidence-based relational approach to supporting pregnant mothers and families with children less than 3 years old. The authors share findings from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) examining the impact of the Baby TALK model on child and maternal outcomes among 200 refugee and immigrant participants. In addition, the authors share the story of a participant to demonstrate the ways in which home visiting programs can support developmental outcomes and mental well-being.

The world erupted in anger and sadness when images circulated of Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey. He was 3 years old, a mere child who fled to Turkey after the conflicts in Syria escalated. It was in the early hours of September 2, 2015, when Alan and his family boarded an inflatable boat wearing what ended up being fake life jackets with 16 other people, even though the boat was designed to carry only 8 people. The boat capsized within just 5 minutes into the trip from Bodrum, Turkey, to the Greek island of Kos 30 minutes away. Alan, his brother, and mother died that day, in addition to several others who were on the ill-fated trip. While these refugees were not the first to travel to countries that could only serve as a temporary safe haven, Alan dying at such a tender age brought global awareness to the plight of forcibly displaced communities and the lengths people will go to if hope exists to rebuild their lives with dignity and safety abroad. Since that fateful day, individuals, families, and entire communities have taken the same risk that Alan’s family took, despite the perils of traveling by sea or land.

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