Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Catholic Social Services Immigration and Refugee Services of Central and Northern Arizona

Program Name

Strengthening Refugee Families Program

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

This program includes three projects (Refugee Marriage Education, Relationship Intelligence and Inter-generational Education) that offer educational, social, culturally, and linguistically appropriate workshops designed to promote the importance of strong, healthy family units. Strengthening Refugee Families takes a strengths based approach to integrating U.S. practices and customs into refugee homes and communities while preserving homeland cultures. The SRFP helps families better understand the many challenges they face during resettlement, for example: role reversal, gender issues, and daily household issues. This program offers educational, social, culturally, and linguistically appropriate workshops designed to teach healthy family functioning.

Program Description

The Refugee Marriage Education Program (adapted from the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, PREP®, model) seeks to enhance and promote healthy relationships. The program provides opportunities to develop communication skills that help people to develop and encourage happy and healthy relationships in all areas of their lives: with spouses, children, extended family members, and within their community. Relationship Intelligence, as defined by Richard Panzer, the founder of "Free Teens" (2003), is a review of ten curricula for teens on marriage and relationships. These curricula focus on relationship building, conflict resolution, and character development. The four sequential program lessons (Relationships, Personal Leadership, Interpersonal relationships, and Community Leadership) orient teens' behavior towards their future roles as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and community leaders. The SRFP use of Relationship Intelligence has focused on parent-youth workshops using parent-grams or facilitating interactions during presentation scripts. The Intergenerational Education Project (IEP) was developed as a continuation of the "Refugee Marriage Education Program" in order to utilize the strengths of extended refugee families. IEP is a cross-generational education project uniting different generations through dialogues and shared stories. It comprehensively relates issues of relationship skills and character development, defines gender roles in a family constellation, and addresses rites of passage. Different sessions focus on:

  • Elderly and Youth Mentoring Groups
  • Parent-to-child relationship issues 
  • Mother-to-daughter Focus Groups and cultural links

Resource Materials Used in Program

Two main curricula are being utilized: The Refugee Marriage Education Program (RMEP) and The Relationship Intelligence (RQ). The Refugee Family Enrichment Program has developed a Family Dynamics Assessment, which is used to foster communication between members in a family. This tool identifies the individual strengths in each family member and how each member contributes to a stronger family unit. (For example, the assessment would ask an elderly family member how sharing their experience or stories might assist refugee youth and children in a new environment.)

Groups Served by Program

The SRFP serves refugee, entrant and asylee families in Phoenix and the immediate surrounding area. These local refugee communities include persons from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, the Caribbean, and Africa-with African refugees comprising the majority of the population we serve.

Program Funding

This program is funded through two sources:

  1. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Strengthening Refugee Families and Marriages Program, which is supported by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and
  2. The Arizona Department of Economic Security, through the State Refugee Coordinator's office.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

Program staff have been formally trained in the RQ model and PREP model for direct delivery of the modified PREP program (Refugee Marriage Education Program). The Coordinator of the program has the language and cultural diversity to serve a larger group of refugee populations within the community. The SRFP uses several interns (generally from the schools of Social Work and Gerontology) from Arizona State University.

Program Evaluation

SRFP is evaluated in two ways. First, a satisfaction survey is administered quarterly to a sample of program participants. In addition to using these results for on-going program improvement, these results are also compared to participant satisfaction with similar programs. Second, to measure outcomes (changes in knowledge, attitude and behavior), a single subject design method is used to collect and measure outcomes for individual families through pre-intervention and post-intervention measures, whereby a baseline is established and progress is then measured at the end of the program.

Program Outcomes

The program has generated an active youth project which has received great compliments from parents. It has created a youth and elderly support system, which has fostered open dialogue. The SRFP is successful if participants are able to increase their communication and problem-solving skills, while decreasing the amount of familial conflict. The program will be successful if it is able to maintain a coalition to address the enormous needs of sustaining healthy refugee families.

Additional Comments

SRFP encourages participant evaluation for developing program goals. 

  • Initially, SRFP conducted a needs assessment and set up a forum for feedback to help design the program curriculum that would fit the cultural background and specific needs of refugee families.
  • The curriculum is flexible and topics covered flow from the families' needs. 
  • Families have a choice of various programs that best fits their interests and current life circumstances (parent, youth, married, widowed). 
  • An intergenerational component has been added at the request of different ethnic communities to compensate for the loss of grandparent-grandchild relationships, considered essential to many ethic communities. Other Key Elements SRFP models relationship building and partnerships within the community by working with neighbors, volunteers, parishes, and other community structures. 
  • SRFP works with other refugee resettlement agencies, national voluntary agencies, ethnic organizations, schools, churches, hospitals, and the larger community in general to better serve and support refugee children and families. 
  • Volunteers are available to teach refugees ESL classes on an individual basis, share employment resources and provide transportation to and from job interviews. 
  • SRFP offers cross-cultural sessions on family values and laws.

Program Contact

Jeanne F. Nizigiyimana
(602) 997-6105

Program Dates

This program began in 2003 and ended in September 2006.