Somali Youth Risk and Resilience project
In the past few years, there has been much talk on national and international news about links between refugee/immigrant youth and violence. This discussion has often taken place without the voices of those who are most affected by the violence and its aftermath, the refugee and immigrant communities themselves. This has especially been true of the Somali community. Our decade-long partnership with the Somali community has allowed us to understand that the community itself has identified youth violence and vulnerability to violent extremist ideologies as important issues. We have built our research program upon the idea that the Somali community has a central stake in both preventing violence and violent extremism among its youth and also in identifying and countering such actions and/or ideology. In this project we will explore the pathways leading from a shared refugee experience to diverse outcomes among Somali refugees: why do some embrace greater openness to violent extremism, while others with shared life experiences move towards gangs, crime, or resilient outcomes such as civic engagement? Central to our approach is the premise that communities are not the problem when it comes to countering violence and violent extremism. They are the solution. Our ultimate goal is to work with our community partners, our greatest assets, to identify community resources that can help strengthen social bonds and build capacity so that community members themselves become knowledgeable, skillful and respected partners in addressing the threat of violence.
We are currently conducting a mixed-method longitudinal study of young Somalis and pathways to and away from violence, funded by the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Defense.
Intervention Research: TST-R
Our evaluation of Project SHIFA in Boston suggests that community-wide acceptance of the program led to high rates of engagement of children and families in services and a significant decrease in PTSD symptoms over 8 months. Alongside the positive mental health outcomes for Somali youth, involvement in Project SHIFA is also associated with increased parental involvement with the school, increased sense of school belonging, and a decrease in school rejection. The publication of our evaluation is available at:
Ellis, B. H., Miller, A., Abdi, S., Barrett, C., Blood, E. & Betancourt, T. S. (2012). Multi-tier mental health program for refugee youth. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
Qualitative results from our evaluation of Project SHIFA Maine will be available soon. We will also be evaluating the dissemination of TST-R in Louisville, KY and West Springfield, MA once implementation begins in the fall of 2013.