Thirteenth International Summer School on Mind, Brain and Education

2018 October 16–20

Migrants and Refugees in the 21st Century: Children in and out of schools

Directors of the School:
Kurt W. Fischer, Antonio M. Battro and Sebastián J. Lipina
Director of the Course: Marcelo Suárez Orozco
Program Officer of the School: Lula Majdalani

Betancourt, Theresa
Boston College (USA)

Theresa S. Betancourt is the inaugural Salem Professor in Global Practice at the Boston College School of Social Work and Director of the Research Program on Children and Adversity (RPCA). She is the Principal Investigator of ongoing mental health services research projects in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and is engaged in community-based participatory research on family-based prevention in refugee children and adolescents resettled in the U.S. She has written on mental health and resilience in children facing adversity including articles in Child Development, Social Science and Medicine, JAMA Psychiatry, BMJ Psychiatry and Pediatrics.


Addressing mental health disparities in refugee children through family and community-based prevention
Background. There are mental health disparities between resettled refugee youth and youth among the general U.S. population. Resettled refugees have poor access to mental health services due to a lack of resources, lack of culturally adapted care and interpretation services, less awareness of available services, limited referral networks, and stigma around mental health. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is an approach to research that engages researchers and community members in an equitable partnership designed to deconstruct power differentials and engage community members in all aspects of the research process. With its emphasis on respecting local knowledge and privileging cultural context, CBPR is a promising approach to studying refugee mental health. Methods. We developed an evidence-based family strengthening intervention for refugees (FSI-R) and are using CBPR-based mixed methods research to conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT). A feasibility pilot will examine the impact of the FSI-R on outcomes of parent-child relationships, family functioning, and child mental health using a Hybrid Type 2 Effectiveness-Implementation Study Design with Somali Bantu and Bhutanese families (N=300). The design incorporates process evaluation to identify strategies for implementing and sustaining high quality FSI-R services and determine optimal methods for scale up. Conclusions. Cross-cultural CBPR approaches can deepen understanding of common and diverging community needs. Previous cross-group analyses have yielded unprecedented insight into resettled refugee experiences and have deepened cohesion and collaboration among partners. The current study aims to illuminate and build on inherent strengths and resources within the refugee communities.