Ongoing Project:

Loss and Protracted Family Separations among Refugee Children and Youth: Examining post-migration impacts and service needs

Researchers: Serena Nudel1, Akm Alamgir1, Manolli Ekra2, Branka Agic3, Kwame McKenzie4, and Michaela Hynie5
Affiliation: Access Alliance1, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)2, Canadian Association of Mental Health (CAMH)3, Wellesley Institute4, York University5
Research Partner: Access Alliance,  OCASI, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT), Across Boundaries, FCJ Refugee Centre
Keywords: refugee children, unaccompanied minors, separated minors, protracted family separation, loss, settlement services, forced migration, well-being
Jump to: Publications & Reports


Objective: This study explores how family loss and separation affects refugee youth and seeks to identify policies and services that can support the well-being of these youth.

Justification: According to UNICEF (2017), the annual number of refugee children who are “unaccompanied” (no presence of adult) or “separated” (who may be with an adult who is not a parent of previous primary caregiver) has increased almost five fold within the last five years from 66,000 in 2010-2011 to almost 300,000 in 2015-2016. Between 2000-2004, Canada received 1087 unaccompanied minors and 1683 separated minors (Wouk et al, 2006). There is limited evidence on how loss, disappearance, and protracted separation of family members of family members due to war and forced migration affect post-migration settlement and wellbeing for refugee children/youth and their families.

Practical goal: This study will produce a literature review on the impacts of family loss and separation and develop a resource list for refugee youth that includes information on health, settlement, and community services and how to access them.

Primary audience: refugee youth, children, and families, service providers, policy makers, and academics


This study will recruit and train three community members with lived experience of forced migration to join the team as co-researchers. This will provide a capacity building opportunity for refugee youth and young adults. The research team will conduct a scoping literature review to synthesize existing evidence related to post-migration effects of loss and separation on the well-being of refugee children and youth, including the methodological and ethical considerations for conducting this research.

This study asks the following questions:

  1. How does experiences of loss, disappearance or protracted separation of one or more family members due to war, conflict, persecution or forced migration affect refugee children/youth and their families in terms post-migration settlement and wellbeing?

  2. What kinds of services and supports can promote wellbeing of these refugee children/youth and their families?

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