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Fearing Help: The Social Worker Conundrum in Serving Recently Immigrated Hispanics

Marjorie R. Sable, DrPH, MSW1, Anne Dannerbeck-Janku, PhD1, James D. Campbell, PhD2, and Judith Davenport, PhD1. (1) School of Social Work, University of Missouri-Columbia, 726 Clark Hall, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211, 573/882-0914, SableM@missouri.edu, (2) University of Missouri-Columbia, Department of Family and Community Medicine, MA-306, Columbia, MO 65212

In a marketing research study of Womenís, Infants, and Childrenís (WIC) services for recently immigrated Hispanics in Missouri, we discovered perspectives on American law and culture that influence how Hispanics are accessing needed public health and other social services. Four focus groups, a WIC consumer satisfaction survey (n=402), and a knowledge and awareness survey (n=459) were conducted among Hispanic women ages 18 to 44, along with a single focus group of men. Most of the participants originated in Mexico; the average length of time in Missouri was less than 10 years. Many participants lacked proper documentation, and discussed the consequent and constant worry for themselves, their children, and their family that they will be noticed by the authorities, which they feared could result in being investigated or having their children taken away. Furthermore, they mentioned fear that services obtained would be billed at a later date. Although transportation is an issue in accessing services, many stated that they avoided applying for a driverís license in order to avoid attention of the authorities. Despite their fear, participants expressed gratitude for living in the U.S. and stated that life is harder in Mexico. The role of social workers in educating recent immigrants about services, dispelling myths about legal authority, developing plans for coping with seasonal and temporary employment and facilitating public health and social service access will be discussed.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Access and Services, Immigrants

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Maternal, Child, and Family Health

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA