Positive Youth Development and Somali Youth

Introduction 

This handout compiles research and resources to assist organizations serving Somali youth. BRYCS prioritizes resources that incorporate a "Positive Youth Development" approach by:

  • Focusing on strengths and assets rather than deficits and problems. For example, emphasizing the skills and competencies that will be needed in the transition to adulthood.
  • Acquiring strengths and assets through positive relationships, especially with pro-social and caring adults. For example, emphasizing relationships with trusted adults such as parents and family, teachers, neighbors, business owners, and mentors.
  • Developing and acquiring youth assets in multiple contexts and environments. For example, schools, workplaces, community organizations, social programs, and neighborhoods all offer opportunities to acquire developmental resources.

Ideal program elements in working with refugee and immigrant youth typically include:

  • The engagement of refugee/immigrant community leaders, families and youth themselves
  • Recruitment of bicultural and/or bilingual staff
  • Support of family relationships
  • Providing socialization, safety and security
  • Supporting academic and educational achievement
  • Including adults as role models and mentors
  • Advocating for and with refugee students

BRYCS Youth Resources

  1. Growing up in a New Country: A Focus on Positive Youth Development With Refugees and Immigrants. Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS) 3 page s . 2006 June-July. English . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/brycs_spotjunejuly2006.pdf

    This Spotlight article focuses on the newest toolkit to be published by BRYCS. The BRYCS Positive Youth Development Toolkit is designed to assist refugee-serving agencies in establishing effective youth oriented programming.

  2. Growing up in a New Country: A Positive Youth Development Toolkit for Working with Refugees and Immigrants. Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS) 54 page s . June 2006. English . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/GrowingUpInANewCountry-Web.pdf

    "This "Toolkit" pulls together articles, resources and programs which can assist agencies in adopting a Positive Youth Development (PYD) approach to working with newcomer youth. Mainstream and newcomer service providers alike should benefit from these resources and examples of "promising practices" in youth programming. The Resource Charts are organized according to stages of the program development cycle, and include the following "Toolboxes": TOOLBOX #1: Background on Positive Youth Development TOOLBOX #2: Assets and Needs Assessments TOOLBOX #3: Program Planning TOOLBOX #4: Program Design 1) Leadership/Empowerment 2) Afterschool 3) Mentoring 4) Employment TOOLBOX #5: Fundraising TOOLBOX #6: Program Implementation TOOLBOX #7: Program Evaluation TOOLBOX #8: "Promising Practices" It is important to keep in mind that, although these sections are listed as discrete stages, they are actually integrated processes. For example, Program Evaluation is listed last; however, it should be integrated into Program Planning and every stage thereafter.3 The majority of the resources in this Toolkit are brief, practical, and available for free download to encourage ease of use by busy practitioners. BRYCS is providing this Toolkit to enable service providers to learn more about the Positive Youth Development approach, to develop new programs, and to enhance and sustain existing programs. Most of all, it is hoped that this effort will encourage and support the development of more effective programming for refugee and immigrant youth, so that all youth may reach their potential." - Publisher's description

  3. Helping Refugee Youth Find the Right Path. Bridging Refugee Youth and Children Services (BRYCS) 6 page s . 2007 Summer. English . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/brycs_spotsummer2007.pdf

    The following spotlight article provides a brief overview of the Positive Youth Development (PYD) model, and specifically, how art and sports can be utilized to encourage the positive development of youth. Refugee and immigrant youth facing the challenges of acculturation on top of the trials and transformations of adolescence may be well-served by programs that use a positive youth development approach. Programs that use this model with foreign-born youth draw on the protective factors and social assets of the youth's native and new cultures in order to keep them on the path to success in the U.S.

  4. Positive Youth Development and Somali Youth: Research and Resources. Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS) 3 page s . February 2009. English . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/ResourcesSomaliYouth.pdf

    This is a list of resources compiled by BRYCS to equip service providers working with Somali refugee youth in the United States. The bibliography also contains resources in English and Somali geared towards Somali parents.

  5. Strengths-Based Programming: The Example of Somali Refugee Youth. Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS) 7 page s . Summer 2009. English . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/brycs_spotsummer2009.pdf

    This spotlight reflects the challenges experienced by many refugee youth as they adjust to life in the U.S. today, by focusing on the example of Somali refugees.  Challenges and strengths shared by Somali youth are highlighted, together with current examples of strengths-based programs for Somali youth from across the country.  

  6. Youth Voice: Listening to Refugee and Immigrant Youth. Bridging Refugee Youth and Children Services (BRYCS) 4 page s . 2008 Summer. English . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/brycs_spotsummer2008.pdf

    "Youth Voice" refers to efforts that incorporate the input and participation of youth into planning activities that affect them, as well as by sharing their perspectives and experiences through artistic expression. Adults often assume what youth need, or overlook the importance of intentionally soliciting youth input. Yet, youth themselves make clear that their observations and sentiments can be poignant and insightful. Their participation in planning can make programming relevant, accessible, and effective for youth. In order to highlight the contribution and talent of newcomer youth, this Spotlight article focuses on the newly created BRYCS Youth Arts & Voices Web page, which showcases art by refugee and immigrant youth, along with lists of highlighted resources and information about youth arts programming.

Parenting Resources (available in English and Somali)

  1. Educational Handbook for Refugee Parents. International Rescue Committee 82 page s . 2006. Burmese English French Somali Spanish . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/Educational-Handbook-English.pdf

    Acquaints refugee parents with the U.S. school system; school grade levels; expectations of students at each level in terms of academics and personal conduct; and parents' responsibilities in ensuring that their children meet the school system expectations. The International Rescue Committee encourages parents to meet with their children's teachers and frequently talk with their children about their schoolwork, as well as urge their children to pursue college. Step-by-step instructions clarify the procedures for choosing a college, the application process, and securing financial aid. An appendix details resources that address parents' specific needs: finding an interpreter; scheduling meetings with teachers or administrators; obtaining permission for a child's absence or late arrival; requesting a fee waiver or free lunch; and requesting resources for families learning English.

    The handbook is also available in Spanish, French, Somali, and Burmese.

  2. Grow with Your Teen = La Soco Korniinshaha Ilmahaaga. Ihnen, Karin , Abdulahi, Abdi (transl.) , Abdulahi, Jamal (transl.) 3 page s . 2003. English Somali . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/GrowWithYourTeen-Somali.pdf

    Teens can be tough to deal with, but this pamphlet reminds parents to be understanding and loving with their kids even when times are tough. It is important that parents be mindful of the values they pass on to their children during their formative teenage years.

  3. Kala shaqee cunugaaga Iskuulka - Work With Your Child's School. Christensen, Sandy,Villasenor-Ochoa, Jesus (ed.),Farah, Dao Xiong Hodan (ed.) page s . 2002. English Somali . http://www.extension.umn.edu/info-u/somali/SM124.html

    This brief article, in English and Somali, describes ways for Somali parents to become more actively engaged in their child's education both inside and outside of the classroom setting.

  4. Parent Outreach Publications (Brochures and Handouts). PACER Center page s . 2008. English Hmong Russian Somali Spanish . http://www.pacer.org/publications/

    Advises parents of young children to contact the PACER Center and their school districts to learn about districts' early childhood intervention and special education services. These services can help parents better understand their children and identify how to best meet individual children's needs. Services can also identify if a child has special needs, which parents should determine as soon as possible because early intervention will allow for the child to be better helped and more ready to learn upon entering kindergarten. Schools will provide service coordinators to individually plan with parents of special needs children for the support services and therapies their children will need, offer tips on how to help their children develop skills at home, and help locate effective community resources and services outside school systems. Lists benchmarks of typical developmental milestones and encourages parents to monitor their child's early development and to seek help immediately if concerns arise. Consultations are free and parents have final decision-making power in application and use of all services.

  5. Positive Discipline: A Guide for Parents. Children's Hospitals and Clinics 56 page s . 1999. English Hmong Somali Spanish . http://www.childrensmn.org/images/family_resource_pdf/027121.pdf

    "Positive Discipline: A Guide for Parents looks at some of the common parenting challenges you may face from birth through early elementary school. Our goal is to give you some ways to address these challenges, using positive discipline techniques to guide your child's behavior. This booklet is filled with ideas that we know really work." - Publisher's description

  6. Prepare for College = Isku Diyaari Jaamacada. Abdulahi, Jamal . 2003. English Somali . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/PrepareForCollege-Somali.pdf

    This brochure gives the facts about college in the US. It discusses the benefits of college and various options such as community college, tech schools, or other four year schools. It also gets into the steps a teen must take to get to college such as taking the SAT or ACT, and provides info on what to expect from one's living situation once at college.

  7. Preventing Youth Suicide. Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers . 2004. Amharic Arabic Chinese Dinka English Farsi French Hindi Punjabi Somali Spanish Tigrigna Urdu Vietnamese . http://www.cmha-edmonton.ab.ca/bins/content_page.asp?cid=284-1189-1690-1750&lang=1

    This information sheet provides a list of common risk factors that cause young people to commit or attempt to commit suicide and presents factors that can make suicide less likely. A supportive person in the young person's life, whether parent, teacher, close friend or youth worker, can help to resolve problems in a positive way. Supportive families are particularly important for young people. The resource offers suggestions for parents in preventing youth suicide.

  8. Teens - Tobacco, Alcohol and Khat = Ka Hadalka Maandooriyeyaashe. Abdulahi, Jamal . 2003. English Somali . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/TeensAlcoholTobaccoKhat-Somali.pdf

    This brochure warns about the dangers of tobacco and alcohol use and describes the legal situation surrounding tobacco,alcohol, and the drug khat which is widely used in Somalia but is illegal in the US.

  9. Teens and Dating = Tub Ntxhais Hluas Txoj Kev Ua Nkauj Ua Nraug. Dworkin, Jody , Xiong, Ong , Lee, Fong (transl.) 1 page . 2004. English Hmong This resource may be free from your local library or purchased from the publisher.

  10. Teens and Social Gatherings = Dhalinyarada Iyo Xafladaha. Gengler, Colleen , Abdulahi, Jamal (transl.) . 2003. English Somali . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/TeensSocialGatherings-Somali.pdf

    This resource provides some tips to refugee parents of teens concerning social gatherings. Includes suggestions for managing teens' outings as well as advice for parties held inside one's own home.

  11. The Teenage Years: Making them Easier for Parents and Young People. Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers . 2004. Amharic Arabic Chinese Dinka English Farsi French Hindi Punjabi Somali Spanish Tigrigna Urdu Vietnamese . http://edmonton.cmha.ca/mental-health/multi-language-brochures/

    This information sheet provides an overview of the types of behaviors exhibited by teenagers and what parents can do to deal with them in a positive way. It is stressed that, although teenagers can face difficult challenges, parents should not accept inappropriate and unacceptable behavior. It is important, however, to deal with the problems in positive ways. It is noted that teenagers who have a positive relationship with one or both parents are less likely to get into serious trouble. The resources present a short list of good ways for parents to improve their relationships with their children.

  12. Thriving with Your Teen = Fahmidda Dhalinta. Allen, Rose , Abdulahi, Jamal (transl.) . 2003. English Somali . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/ThrivingWithYourTeen-Somali.pdf

    Teenagers, Adolescents, Parenting, in English and Somali

  13. Translated Mental Health Topics. Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers page s . 2004. Amharic Arabic Chinese Dinka English Farsi French Hindi Punjabi Somali Spanish Tigrigna Urdu Vietnamese . http://edmonton.cmha.ca/mental-health/multi-language-brochures/

    This Web page has links to pamphlets about mental health issues, including "Making Sense of Depression", "How to Cope with Stress", "Does Someone You Know have a Mental Illness?", "Alcohol and Drug Problems Happen in all Kinds of Families", "Preventing Suicide", "Preventing Youth Suicide", "Children and Discipline: A Parents Guide", "Sad Feeling After Childbirth", "Traumatic Stress Disorder", "The Teenage Years: Making them Easier for Parents and Young People".

  14. Truancy: Why It's Important To Go To School = Muhiimida Adinta Iskuulka. Villasenor-Ochoa, Jesus , Abdulahi, Abdi (transl.) , Abdulahi, Jamal (transl.) . 2003. English Somali . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/Truancy-Somali.pdf

    This pamphlet explains the importance of attending school, defines truancy as well as the difference between excused and unexcused absences, and provides tips for encouraging school attendance.

Research Specific to Somali Youth and Families

  1. A Gap in their Hearts: The Experience of Separated Somali Children. Hannan, Lucy page s . January 2003. English Somali . http://www.irinnews.org/pdf/in-depth/gap-in-their-hearts-english.pdf

    This report is about Somali children whose parents are faced with desperate choices. It looks at how that despair has been turned into a lucrative and exploitative international child-smuggling business, which delivers the agonies of a failed state to the doorstep of the West. Content includes personal accounts, a photo gallery, chapters on unaccompanied small children, the smugglers' network, looking after separated children, and the dream of education.  There is also a summary of observations.

  2. Best Practices: "Somali Family Mental Health Support Program". Nur, Ubah I.,Dalal, Maryan,Baker, Karyn 17 page s . February 2005. English . http://www.midaynta.com/documents/Best%20Practices%20-%20Somali%20Family%20Mental%20Support.pdf

    This 17-page report summarizes lessons learned from a collaborative effort to establish culturally appropriate mental health services for Somalis in an urban Canadian setting.

  3. Culture, Context and Mental Health of Somali Refugees. Cavallera, V. , Ventevogel, P. , Yusuf, A.M. 72 page s . 2016. English . https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/52624

    This report's aim is to provide information about the sociocultural background and contextual aspects of mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of the Somali population. It is primarily written for humanitarian staff involved in providing mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) to Somali people who have been affected by displacement, both within Somalia as well as countries hosting Somalia refugees, particularly within neighbouring African countries. (Description from source)

  4. Educating Immigrant Youth in the United States: An Exploration of the Somali Case. Kapteijns, Lidwien,Arman, Abukar 26 page s . 2004. English . http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/bildhaan/vol4/iss1/6/

    This 26-page academic article describes research on the education of immigrant youth, as well as strengths and liabilities facing Somali youth. Topics discussed include Somali history, acculturation, biculturalism, school quality, parenting, communal identity, resistance to racism, Somali schools, the generation gap, Somaliness, Islam, and recommendations.

  5. Engaging Somali Young Adults in Cedar-Riverside: Opportunities for Programming and Collaboration. Kasper, Eric , Fleck, Peter , Gardner, Leah 64 page s . 2010. English . http://www.leadership.umn.edu/student_initiatives/chance/docs/Group_Draft_13_PF_EG_EKEngagingSomaliYoungAdults.doc

    This report assessed the scope and capacity of current programs for Somali young adults, determined areas where programming was missing or could be enhanced, and engaged Somali young adults in a co-creative dialogue to identify their needs and capacities and to make use of their knowledge and experiences in identifying solutions. (Description from source).

  6. Identifying Urban Health Issues Among Somali Youth. Wellesley Urban Health Research Program page s . 2004. English . http://www.midaynta.com/documents/WELLESLEY.htm

    A brief report on five Toronto workshops on urban health issues facing Somali youths. Participants were grouped according to age and gender, with discussions focused primarily on concerns about education and family life issues. Youth concerns regarding education included teachers' low academic expectations of Somali students, lack of cultural sensitivity, and negative peer pressure. Youth concerns regarding the family included the effect of single-parent female-headed households, resulting in increased household responsibilities for girls and a lack of father-figures and male role models for boys.

  7. Integration Experiences and Youth Perspectives: An Exploratory Study between School-Going Somali Youth in Melbourne, Australia, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Omar, Yusuf Sheikh 21 page s . n.d.. English . http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1091&context=bildhaan

    This study aims to explore Somali youth experiences and perceptions of integration experiences in the school context comparing differences and similarities of those who live in Melbourne and Minneapolis. Additionally, the study investigates parents' experiences with their children's attitudes in the new environment. (Description from source)

  8. Needs Assessment: Somali Adolescents in the Process of Adjustment: Toronto 2001. Reitsma, Katrina 36 page s . August 2001. English . http://www.midaynta.com/documents/Somali%20Youth%20Coalition.pdf

    This 36-page report discusses the results of a needs assessment of Somali adolescents in Toronto, summarizing concerns regarding: pre-migration stressors; racism/discrimination; education; negotiating identities between two cultures; intergenerational conflict; post-migration stressors; gender-related issues; local vs. city-wide issues; religion; and strengths brought to the acculturation process. The report includes a summary of themes from Somali youth focus groups and concludes with recommendations for future action.

  9. Refugee Wellness Country Guide: The Federal Republic of Somalia. Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services 2 page s . 2016. English . https://gallery.mailchimp.com/dd815b38ece49bbb4bb5c1a69/files/Somali_RWCG_2016_FINAL.pdf

    Provides a historical timeline of the country and gives an overview of the current conditions and pertinent issues.

  10. Report on Somali Youth Issues. Adan, Shukri 53 page s . 2006. English Somali . https://wiki.umn.edu/pub/TeamEngage/LiTerature/somali-report.pdf

    This publication examines crime and gang activity in the Somali youth community in Minneapolis, identifies difficulties faced by the Somali community and ways these difficulties contribute to increases in crime committed by its youth, and makes recommendations on how the City of Minneapolis can work with the Somali community and other agencies to address these issues.

  11. Somali Cultural Guide: Building Capacity to Strengthen the Well-Being of Immigrant Families and Their Children: A Prevention Strategy. Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) 2 page s . December 2011. English . http://cascw.umn.edu/portfolio-items/somali-cultural-guide/

    This guide provides important information for child welfare professionals in understanding the culture and environment of Somali immigrant children and families. It focuses on factors identified through research and interviews that are considered common themes relevant to Somali family life for most Somali families.

     

  12. Somali Family Strength: Working in the Communities. Heitritter, D. Lynn 12 page s . June 1999. English . http://www.brycs.org/documents/upload/SomaliFamilyStrengthReport.pdf

    Provides insights into how Somali families newly arrived in the United States describe the characteristics of a stable family and how strong families can be supported in resettlement. This report is based on a study of the growing Somali population in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) of Minnesota, possibly the largest concentration of Somalis in the nation. Understanding the nature of family strength is important for service providers working with the local immigrant and refugee community because members of strong families are in a better position to form positive relationships and self-sustaining lives and to acquire the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to meet their daily responsibilities. Among the key findings of the study were that (1) religious traditions underpinned values for promoting family unity; (2) a hierarchical family structure was considered essential for the stability underlying family strength; (3) notions of cooperation and responsibility supported social unity within the family; (4) peace, harmony, and health promoted psychological unity within the family, with health understood as the integration of physical, mental, and spiritual well being; (5) family strength was shaped and supported through families' acceptance within the local Somali community and religious brotherhood; and (6) shifts in social and financial resources posed challenges to family strength.

  13. Somali Mental Health. Schuchman, David,McDonald, Colleen 13 page s . 2004. English . http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/bildhaan/vol4/iss1/8/

    This six-page report briefly outlines the mental health challenges to Somalis in Minnesota, Somali concepts of mental illness, and treatment approaches through the Somali Mental Health Program in Minneapolis.

  14. Somali Refugee Youth in Maryland: Needs Assessment. Birman, Dina , Trickett, Edison J. , Bacchus, Natalia 23 page s . November 2001. English This resource may be free from your local library or purchased from the publisher.

    Describes the purpose, methodology, results, and conclusions of a needs assessment of Somali refugee youth in Prince George's County, Maryland, conducted during the 2000-2001 academic year. The primary purpose was to determine how the Somali youth were faring in public schools. Data were gathered from focus groups with the youth (in middle school, in high school, and recently graduated) as well as interviews with parents and such school personnel as guidance and outreach counselors, international student specialists, and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teachers. Although the interviews and discussions indicated that the Somali youth for the most part were adjusting well to both American society and school, some themes and concerns emerged around the difficulty of feeling different from the other students as reflected in family life and religious beliefs, having academic or disciplinary problems, being teased and involved in fights, and facing an uncertain future. From the teachers' perspectives, problems also arose because of the lack of ESOL teachers and the challenge of promoting parental involvement. Key conclusions included the importance of gathering information from and sharing it with key stakeholders and of increasing cultural understanding.

  15. Teaching Somali Children: What Perceived Challenges Do Somali Students Face in the Public School System?. Kruizenga, Teresa M. page s . January 2010. English . http://www.mbali.info/doc448.htm

    This article reviews literature on the experience of Somali immigrant children and their lives at school and explores issues of language acquisition, religion and familial connections in relation to their schooling experience. (Description from source)

  16. The Academic Engagement of Newly Arriving Somali Bantu Students in a U.S. Elementary School. Birman, Dina , Tran, Nellie 25 page s . October 2015. English . http://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/academic-engagement-newly-arriving-somali-bantu-students-us-elementary-school

    This report traces the significant academic and behavioral challenges experienced by a group of newly arrived Somali Bantu students in a Chicago elementary school. The researchers, who spent two years monitoring the progress of these refugee students, also tracked the pressures placed on teachers and other school staff in dealing with this unique population, as well as their attitudes towards the students and teaching strategies. 

  17. Trauma and Coping in Somali and Oromo Refugee Youth. Halcon, Linda L. , Robertson, Cheryl L. , Savik, Kay 17-25 page s . July 2004. English . http://www.researchgate.net/publication/8513081_Trauma_and_coping_in_Somali_and_Oromo_refugee_youth

    Investigates the interplay of pre-migration experiences, current problems, and coping strategies of Somali and Oromo refugee youth living in the United States. Study participants were 338 18- to 25-year-old Somali and Oromo men and women living in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota metropolitan area. Key survey findings revealed that: (1) Oromo youth reported significantly more traumatic events than did Somali youth; (2) higher levels of reported trauma were correlated with psychological and physical problems; (3) more Oromo women and fewer Oromo men, compared to Somali women and men, reported finding American life hard to understand; (4) women were more likely to deal with their sadness by talking about problems with friends, whereas men were more likely to cope by exercising; and (5) youth who came to the U.S. to get a job or education or reunite with family were less likely to plan to return home. The study also highlights important gender differences, including superior ability of the mento negotiate daily life in the U.S. due to English fluency, and greater likelihood for women to feel socially isolated. Differences between ethnic and gender groups suggest the need for programs and services tailored to subgroups' unique situations.