Caring for Refugee Families

International Family Nursing Association (IFNA) Response to the Global Refugee Crisis: Caring for Refugee Families

Updated: September 06, 2017

International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, talking with Syrian children at a UK-funded clinic in the Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan. Picture: Peter Millett/British Embassy JordanThe Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are 60 million individuals worldwide who are currently displaced, more than at any time since World War II (See the UNHCR website for more information). As family nurses, our attitudes about the global refugee crisis are inextricably connected to our beliefs about the central importance of the family, our ethics regarding the rights of family to health and well-being, and our role in the promotion of family health. Family nurses have always been in a unique position to assist families who are experiencing physical, psychological, relational, and/or spiritual distress of forced migration and displacement due to armed conflict, violence, persecution, poverty, and disaster.

The IFNA Practice Committee has responded to this crisis by creating a “toolkit” of resources for caring for refugee families. These include current literature related to assessment and intervention that is family-focused, culturally-sensitive, and strengths-based; Position Statements about immigrant and refugee families; and nursing and health care organizations that have addressed refugee family health. New information will continue to be added.

Addressing the health needs and suffering of families (and particularly children) who have experienced adverse experiences of forced migration is one of the first steps in delivering quality family nursing care. Fostering the resilience of families as they adjust to acculturation and resettlement as well as heal from adversity and trauma requires family nurses to be highly skilled. Family nurses bring an acute awareness of the complex interactions between the individual, the family, and the larger social and cultural contexts into which refugees resettle. Where there are families in need, family nurses will be there to offer compassion, curiosity, and healing while they advocate for policies and access to resources that will transform family health worldwide.


Current Literature re: Family-focused Assessment and Intervention of Refugee Families

American Humane Association. (2010). A social worker’s toolkit for working with immigrant families. Healing the damage. Trauma and immigrant families in the Child Welfare System. Retrieved from

Children’s Psychological Health Center. Disaster resources for children & teens. Retrieved from: (Guided Activity Workbooks:

Dalla, R. L., Defrain, J., Johnson, J., & Abbot, D. A. (Eds.). (2009). Strengths and challenges of new immigrant families. Implications for research, education, policy, and service. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Danna, D. M., Pierce, S. S., Schaubhut, R. M., Billingsley, L., & Bennett, M. J. (2015). Educating nurses to provide culturally competent care during disasters. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 46(3), 135-144. doi: 10.3928/00220124-20150220-18.

Fitzgerald, E. M., Myers, J. G., & Clark, P. (2017). Nurses need not be guilty bystanders: Caring for vulnerable immigrant populations. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 22(1). Retrieved from

Hughsam, M., Tran, M., Kansal, M., & Suryavanshi, T. (2016). What is the refugee mental health crisis and how can we address it? [Educational video]. Created by four Bachelor of Health Sciences students at McMaster University for the 2016 Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research Conference. Available from:…

Isakson, B. L., Legerski, J.-P., Layne, C. M. (2015). Adapting and implementing evidence-based interventions for trauma-exposed refugee youth and families. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 45(4), 245-253. doi: 10.1007/s10879-015-9304-5

Kinzie, J. D. (2013). Addressing the mental health needs of refugees. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved from

Manitoba Trauma Information and Education Centre. (2013). The Trauma-Informed Toolkit (2nd ed.). Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Klinic Community Health Centre. Retrieved from

McGoldrick, M. (Producer). (2017). Working with Immigrant Families: An Introduction- 15 min video. Multicultural Family Institute. Retrieved from 

Richards, S. E. (March 22, 2017). How the fear of deportation puts stress on families.  The Atlantic. Retrieved from 

Slonim-Nevo, V., & Lavie-Ajayi, M. (2017). Refugees and asylum-seekers from Darfur: The escape and life in Israel. International Social Work. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0020872816681655

The Children’s Society. (2015). Refugee toolkit. Supporting refugee young carers and their families. Retrieved from

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network Learning Center. (n.d.). Refugee Services Toolkit (RST). Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, June). Guidelines for mental health screening during the domestic medical examination for newly arrived refugees. Retrieved from

van der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York, NY: Viking.

Valeras, A.M. (2016). Refugee patients. Families, Systems, & Health, 34(2), 177. doi: 10.1037/fsh0000187

Weine, S., Feetham, S., Kulauzovic, Y., Knafl, K., Besic, S., Klebic, A.,…Pavkovic, I. (2006). A family beliefs framework for socially and culturally specific preventive interventions with refugee youths and families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76(1), 1-9. doi: 10.1037/0002-9432.76.1.1

Weine, S., Muzurovic, N., Kulauzovic, Y., Besic, S., Lezic, A., Mujagic, A….Pavkovic, I. (2004). Family consequences of refugee trauma. Family Process, 43(2), 147-160. doi: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2004.04302002.x

Worabo, H. J., Hsueh, K.-H., Yakimo, R., Worabo, E., Burgess, P. A., & Farberman, S. M. (2016). Understanding refugees’ perceptions of health care in the United States. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 12(7), 487-494. doi:10.1016/j.nurpra.2016.04.014

Wiley. (n.d.). Article/book collection and podcasts on refugees and migration. Retrieved from

Position Statements about Immigrant and Refugee Families

American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA). AFTA Position Statement. The Deleterious Impact of U.S. Immigration Policy on Families. Retrieved from

NEW American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA). AFTA Stands in Opposition to Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration, January 31, 2017. Retrieved from

NEW American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA): AFTA Statement on ICE Raids, February 14, 2017. Retrieved from

International Family Nursing Association (IFNA): IFNA Response to the Global Refugee Crisis: Caring for Refugee Families. Retrieved from

NEW International Family Nursing Association (IFNA): IFNA Response to Executive Order in the United States Regarding Immigration and Refugees, February 16, 2017. Retrieved from:

NEW National Council on Family Relations. Response to President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigrants and Refugees. Retrieved from (see list of Resources for Families and Family Science Professionals as well as Resources for  Faculty Members and University Administrators)

World Psychiatric Association (WPA). WPA Position Statement: Europe Migrant & Refugee Crisis. Retrieved from 

Nursing and Health Care Organizations: Documents and Websites about Refugee and Immigrant Health

American Nurses Association. (2010). Nursing beyond borders: Access to health care for documented and undocumented immigrants living in the US. Retrieved from

Canadian Nurses Association. (n.d.). Syrian refugees. Retrieved from

Canadian Pediatric Society. (n.d.). Caring for kids new to Canada. A guide for health professionals working with immigrant and refugee children and youth. Retrieved from

International Council of Nurses. (2015, September). Press release: “Nurses are key to healthcare for refugees and migrants”. Retrieved from

Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX). (2015). MIPEX is a tool which measures policies to integrate migrants in all EU Member States and other countries such as Australia, Canada and the USA. Retrieved from

National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). (September 6, 2017). How DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and Immigration Affect Families (list of resources and publications in NCFR journals). Retrieved from:

Physicians for Human Rights: Website:

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Website:

The United National Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The 10 Point Plan in Action. (Update 2016). Retrieved from  (UNHCR has developed the 10-Point Plan of Action on Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration to assist governments and others with incorporating protection considerations into migration policies.) 

World Health Organization. (2016, January). Shouldering the care of refugees. Retrieved from

World Health Organization. Regional Office for Europe. (2016, January). Collaboration on refugee and migrant health. Retrieved from

Please help grow this list of resources that could inform and guide family nursing practice with refugee families.  Contact IFNA Practice Committee Co-chair, Maria do Céu Barbieri Figueiredo with your recommended additions. Thank you!