Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches and Lectures

Event Title

2019 17th Biennial Meeting of the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA)

Event Location

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Document Type


Presentation Date


Date Range

2019-06-26 to 2019-06-29


Unaccompanied immigrant minors (UIM) are youth who lack lawful immigration status and who are without a parent or guardian in the U.S. who can provide custody and care. By all accounts, UIM experience stressful and traumatic circumstances before, during and postmigration. Most UIM left their home countries due to economic stagnation, poverty, crime and gang-related violence (Kandel et al., 2014); almost half described fleeing societal violence and one in five described experiencing domestic abuse (UNHCR, 2014). During migration, UIM are vulnerable to human trafficking, kidnapping, and other abuses (Kandel et al., 2014). Upon resettlement, UIM sometimes experience extended stays in detention centers, community violence exposure in resettlement areas, and an uncertain future in the U.S., all without family support to buffer these stressors (Alvarez & Alegria, 2016). Not surprisingly, UIM are at increased risk for mental health problems compared to accompanied immigrant youth (Derluyn & Broekaert, 2008; Huemer et al., 2009). Research on protective factors is emerging, but scarce.

This presentation describes community stakeholder perspectives around the strengths and needs of UIM. Stakeholders include academic researchers with experience working with UIM; key decision makers in agencies serving UIM; professionals with insider knowledge (e.g., immigration attorneys, psychologists with expertise in asylum evaluations); and community members participating in immigrant-focused coalitions. Stakeholder interviews identified significant need for support for UIM. They noted that UIM need emotional support before, during and after legal interviews when youth must recount traumatic events. Families need support during periods of separations and reunions, which can lead to uncertainty and unanticipated conflict, and foster families sponsoring UIM need parenting support for raising children facing difficult circumstances. Stakeholders also noted role conflicts that arise when simultaneously addressing the legal and mental health needs of UIM and the emotional toll that this work takes on professionals serving UIM.



Included in

Psychology Commons