Factors Related to Educational Resilience Among Sudanese Unaccompanied Minors
by Meenal Rana , Desirée Baolian Qin , Laura Bates, Tom Luster & Andrew Saltarelli — 2011
Background/Context: Educational resilience is defined as having successful outcomes in school despite the adversities one has faced in life. There is a dearth of research on a particularly high-risk group—unaccompanied refugee minors who are separated from their parents by war and lack the protection and advocacy provided by adult caretakers.
Purpose: This qualitative study explores the factors associated with educational resilience among unaccompanied Sudanese refugee youth who experienced extreme trauma and chronic adversity prior to being placed with American foster families in 2000–2001.
Setting: The setting includes Lansing and neighboring communities in Michigan.
Participants: Nineteen Sudanese refugees (mean age—15 years at the time of resettlement; gender—17 males, 2 females) who had been placed in a foster care program for unaccompanied refugee minors in the United States participated in the retrospective interviews. We interviewed 20 parents from 15 families, including five couples, 3 married mothers interviewed alone, 2 single fathers, and 5 single mothers.
Research Design: The study used a qualitative research design by using open ended semistructured interviews in which the participants were comfortable speaking about their experiences, yet the researchers were able to follow the interview protocol. With the assistance of the resettlement agency (Lutheran Social Services of Michigan), we sampled for diversity in the foster families to obtain a sample of youth who were exposed to diverse families and circumstances. With the help of foster parents and the assistance of a Sudanese cultural consultant, we recruited at least one youth from each of these families, with the exception of two families.
Data Analysis: The transcribed interviews were coded thematically. A three-step coding procedure was used: open, axial, and selective coding.
Findings: All youth in our study came to the United States with “education” as their primary goal. Many youth had a desire to help those left in Africa and to rebuild Sudan. All the youth interviewed had achieved at least a high school diploma, and all but three had either completed or were enrolled in higher education. Personal attributes, relationships, and community support/opportunities helped the youth in overcoming the challenges that they faced in terms of educational attainment in the United States.
Conclusions/Recommendations: This study confirmed the important roles of parents, teachers, and school counselors in educational success for at-risk youth. The challenges noted by the youth and their foster parents provided useful information for possible changes in policy that could enhance their success.
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