Strengths and challenges of immigrant families
Like all families, immigrant families are diverse, complex, and have strengths and challenges. The process of migration itself is often traumatic and not uniform. Many families are transnational—that is, they maintain connections across borders—as some family members may migrate first and bring children later. Once here, children may acculturate and learn English faster than their parents, creating stressors that might bring the family to the attention of child welfare.
Culturally competent assessments are key to identifying the strengths and stressors in families. Professionals may need to consider families across borders and be prepared to do an international home study for kinship placements, if necessary. They need to understand the process of acculturation and the stress it may cause in marriages. When assessing an immigrant family, professionals must take into account the family's immigration status, language, and culture—all of which may affect a family's ability to qualify for and/or access services.
Find resources in this section regarding the strengths and challenges of immigrant families and implications of immigration and acculturation for parenting.
Crossroads: The Intersection of Immigrant Enforcement and the Child Welfare System (PDF - 7,045 KB)
Synergy, 16(1), 2013
Describes how the intersection of the child welfare and immigration systems can give rise to child protection and custody issues, discusses the impact on domestic violence victims, and offers recommendations for coordination between the two systems.
The Intersection of Immigration Law, Its Enforcement and Social Work Practice Online Training
National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter
Provides training for practitioners on U.S. immigration law and its impact on families and communities.
Migration and Child Welfare National Network
Provides information for child welfare and other community-based professionals working with immigrant families. The resources are designed to increase workers' knowledge and skills with regard to immigration-related issues.
Assessment of Issues Facing Immigrant and Refugee Families (PDF - 958 KB)
Segal & Mayadas
Child Welfare, 84(5), 2005
Describes the socioeconomic and psychosocial concerns that immigrants and refugees often face in the United States related to the experience of migration and discusses the differences in the migration experiences of immigrants versus refugees.
Immigration, Acculturation and Parenting (PDF - 369 KB)
Bornstein & Bohr (2011)
In Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development
Examines the extent to which immigrant parents' caregiving and practices change when they migrate from one culture to another and the unique challenges parents face in acculturating.
In the Child's Best Interest? The Consequences of Losing a Lawful Immigrant Parent to Deportation (PDF - 587 KB)
Baum, Jones, & Barry (2010)
University of California, Berkley and Davis Schools of Law
Examines the experiences of U.S. citizen children impacted by the forced deportation of their lawful permanent resident parents and proposes ways to reform U.S. law consistent with domestic and international standards aimed at improving the lives of children.
Language, Culture and Immigration Relief Options (PDF - 763 KB)
Lincroft & Cervantes (2010)
First Focus & Migration and Child Welfare National Network
Analyzes the need for the child welfare system to develop and implement policies that take into account the unique needs of immigrant children and families and recommends the improvement of language and culturally competent services throughout the system.
Migration: A Critical Issue for Child Welfare (PDF - 814 KB)
American Humane Association
Protecting Children, 21(2), 2006
Summarizes the emerging issues identified as requiring attention by child welfare systems in order to facilitate the positive child welfare outcomes of child safety, permanency of placements and relationships, and child and family well-being.
New Research Funded by American Humane Association Shows Significant Differences in Maltreatment and Risk Factors Between Children of Immigrants and Children of Natives
American Humane Association (2010)
Presents the results of a study that found differences in the types of maltreatment experienced by children of immigrants versus children of U.S.–born parents.
Nuestras Historias (PDF - 516 KB)
Includes 10 stories in Spanish about the challenges immigrant mothers face in maintaining safe and stable homes and supporting their children and families while living in a new culture.
Public Benefits and Child Welfare Financing (PDF - 419 KB)
Lincroft & Borelli (2010)
First Focus & Migration and Child Welfare National Network
Provides an overview of the difficulties that immigrant families face when their immigration status prevents them from accessing critical public resources, court–mandated reunification services, or permanency options.
Sibling Caretaking in Immigrant Families: Understanding Cultural Practices to Inform Child Welfare Practice and Evaluation
Evaluation and Program Planning, 33(3), 2010
Discusses the implications of sibling caretaking in regard to the identification of familial risk and protective factors associated with migration and acculturation. The article also considers factors that inform culturally sensitive assessments, interventions, and evaluations related to family functioning and social support.
Supporting Refugee Families: Adapting Family Strengthening Programs That Build on Assets (PDF - 93 KB)
Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (2010)
Provides resources and suggestions for choosing evidence-based family strengthening programs for use with refugee populations. This resource also describes programs that have successfully adapted national family strengthening programs to refugees.