Online Program

Context, Caring and Connection: Relational Ethics and Tools for Empowering Newly Arrived Refugees

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Heidi West, MA Ethics, Peace, & Global Affairs, Graduate Certificate: Global Health, Office of International Programs, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Each year thousands of refugees arrive in the US through the Department of State (DOS) Refugee Resettlement program.  Through the DOS Reception and Placement program (R&P), administered by nine domestic resettlement agencies, refugees are provided with basic assistance for their first 90 days in the US.  After this short period, newly arrived individuals and families, many of whom have suffered trauma or disease and have limited education or English language training, are transferred to other short-term government assistance programs until they obtain employment and self-sufficiency.  Social workers, health coordinators and other resettlement staff are charged with ensuring that clients can rebuild lives and achieve independence, yet they are often overburdened and under-resourced.  In line with the requirements of the R&P program, staff are trained to follow a checklist model of service delivery:  housing – check; food stamps - check; health insurance – check; medical appointment - check . This model can create problematic power relationships in accessing services.   Drawing from feminist care ethics, conflict resolution, and trauma recovery, this paper explores alternate tools and frameworks for analysis designed to build the capacity of resettlement staff to deliver the required R&P services while simultaneously engaging with clients to promote caring relationships and the rebuilding of social and professional networks.  Illustrated by the experiences of Philadelphia refugee resettlement staff in 2009-2011, this paper demonstrates how feminist care ethics “stresses sensitivity to the multiple relevant considerations in particular contexts…  with an emphasis on actual dialogue that empowers its participants” (Held 2006).

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Define relational care ethics in the context of refugee resettlement in the US. Explain at least 2 of the benefits and 1 of the challenges posed by implementing a relational approach to refugee resettlement, particularly services related to health. Evaluate the degree to which relevant public health interventions and/or refugee health services utilize a relational approach. Identify one or more areas where increased attention to the relational ethics at play could potentially improve outcomes.

Keyword(s): Refugees, Ethics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked in refugee resettlement and during that time I developed and piloted tools for building staff capacity. During two different graduate programs (masters and certificate), I conducted research on different ethical approaches for programs targeting individuals experiencing trauma and conflict induced migration.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.