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Parenting Across Borders: Supporting Somalian Refugee Children and Families

Developing a network of support for refugee families in motion.

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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Families who are in transition have many needs and are contending with many risk factors but have very few supports. Families in transition who have children 0-5 years old should have access to/engagement with high-quality early childhood education and care support. We will be targeting Somali refugees living in Ethiopia with the goal of immigrating to the USA or Europe. Somalia is the fourth-largest refugee crisis in the world. Many refugees are displaced due to persecution, war, or conflict, and many are mothers with young children (0-5). The fathers are either deceased, have immigrated to another country, or are still in Somalia. ParentChild+, an evidence-based home visiting model, intersects early childhood with race equity. The early childhood space has informed our perspective that the first years of life are the most developmentally crucial. From the race equity perspective, we have historically worked with the most underserved communities of color and understand firsthand the structural barriers that are in place to keep refugee and immigrant families away from opportunity. The Horn of Africa Services (HOAS), an East African led community-based organization, approaches their work with a depth of knowledge/experiences that create a partnership between stakeholders in Somalia and Ethiopia and the immigrant/refugee community in Seattle Washington to support children and families in transition. Based on an ongoing partnership with HOAS and ParentChild+, we propose an intervention that supports refugee parents in accessing early childhood development information and resources. Using our early childhood development expertise, specifically our knowledge of brain science, to empower parents to support their children’s development. Notwithstanding the traumatic experiences endured by these families, it is possible to provide a safe space for parents to mindfully spend time with their children and support social emotional learning and cognitive development.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

1.4 million+ Somalis are living in exile, many for decades. Ethiopia hosts 245,000+ Somali refugees, mostly in camps. Due to unfavorable conditions, Somalian refugees are moving to the urban Bole Michael neighborhood in the capital of Addis Ababa, which has even less resources for young families than the camps. HOAS’s community expertise has fostered relationships with local NGOS and government officials that have created an opportunity for ParentChild+ to work in this region of the world.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Our idea builds many bridges: - the parent-child relationship by focusing on the secure attachment and developmental needs of the child, and therefore bridges the parent and child for lifelong learning -a family and their current and future community, including understanding the educational landscape and being prepared for school -refugees in US and in Ethiopia, sometimes the same family -an understanding the refugee community in the US via our work with the refugees in Ethiopia

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Our proposed intervention addresses the need for parents to have the psychological wellness to care for their children in a sensitive and responsive way. We address the need of empowering parents with resources and knowledge that lead to more positive interactions with their children, which ultimately leads to much higher parental efficacy. Our idea also addresses the human need of belonging to a community. Through their work with people from this region, HOAS developed a knowledge base that can be utilized to help people who are currently in transition who will ultimately become part of these communities, as well as people who are currently living in transitional communities. Lastly, our idea solves weaving self-determination and dignity into the immigrant narrative. To access resources that empower immigrants to live their lives however they choose, in a dignified way, without the cruel rhetoric they are often subjected to about their character and motives.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

Informed by ParentChild+’s current model, we will co-develop a program to offer early childhood/parenting support where it hasn't existed. Over the 1st year we will: • Identify families • Recruit/train community-based home visitors to work 1:1 with families • Conduct needs assessment/make referrals • Engage families in supporting the parent-child relationship, building cognitive/social emotional skills via books/toys • Home visitors analyze the model/adjust based on family’s needs • Pre/post program family surveys Our intervention strengthens families by providing them with skills/tools to make their transition more seamless, preparing them for school/life, and increasing their economic status by creating opportunity. Caregivers are empowered to enhance their parenting skills/community connections. Families will carry these skills wherever they go. By hiring from the neighborhoods where we work, we are introducing a diverse community-based early childhood Ethiopian workforce.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

HOAS has seen the benefits of the ParentChild+ model firsthand. The model has been successfully implemented within the context of East African immigrant communities in Seattle. This success has inspired HOAS to broaden the reach of the ParentChild+ model by extending our work into Ethiopia to work with Somalian refugees. Our inspiration is also rooted in wanting to support refugee families in best possible way, despite the growing refugee crisis in the US. Part of that is to develop an understanding of the places and conditions they are fleeing (Somalia), as well as the transitional places (Ethiopia), and trying to work collaboratively to build bridges of supports as these people and families move through the world.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Somalian refugees who are living in different Ethiopian cities often encounter conflicts with local people and therefore feel frightened and insecure. Although there are supports from different humanitarian organization/NGOs for basic needs (food, medicine), these people often feel isolated from the communities in which they are living and are challenged by literacy barriers, social isolation, and limited access to educational opportunities. They often develop their own informal systems to survive.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

HOAS is providing a unique level of expertise and local knowledge that allows ParentChild+ to develop a preliminary understanding of some of the needs and challenges that people in transition are facing. It allows ParentChild+ to have direct connections to NGOs and government officials to establish meaning partnerships with local people who have real access. Working with children and families and other stakeholders in places such as Ethiopia, we are also learning about the history, experiences, and contexts that will continue to shape the lives of the families, even when they are no longer there but are here with us in places like Seattle. The benefits are cyclical. Here in the states, we get to learn about the experiences and conditions that then can help inform the work we do with families when they arrive here. For the refugee families currently living in Ethiopia, they get a head start on what to expect, and have access to resources that will ease their transition into America.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

We are in conversations with the following possible partners: 1. Gudina Tumsa Foundation: Since 1994 the work of the Gudina Tumsa Foundation (GTF) has been the source of hope for the future for the Karayu pastoralists in the Fantelle region. GTF’s vision is to see communities, who are empowered to perceive themselves as capable human beings, equipped to actively engage in all aspects of spiritual and physical human life. It is their mission to empower disadvantaged communities to see themselves as whole and capable human beings. Gudina is currently working in Addis Ababa 2. Labata Fantalle is a non-profit grassroots organization that aims to facilitate participatory, community-led development. 3. We are in conversation with an Ethiopian Consular, Dr. Birhanemeskel Abebe Sagni, who is currently stationed in California.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)

Group or Organization Name

Horn of Africa Services and ParentChild+

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

HOAS is a nonprofit organization committed to offering multi-lingual and multicultural assistance to East African immigrants and refugees in support of immediate and long-term adjustment needs in Seattle, WA. HOAS recognized that the ParentChild+ intervention addressed a need within the East African refugee community of Seattle. Based on that, they deiced to implement the model. That process revealed to them, and to ParentChild+, that we could provide a solution to people who are in transition. That decision was informed by HOAS leadership, who have lived through the same transitional experience. They have a unique perspective to understand there is a possibility we could do something based on our current practice, but more tailored to people in motion. HOAS involvement and involvement of all of their connections in combination with ParentChild+’s expertise in early childhood education model development and family systems makes us an ideal partnership.

Website URL:

Horn of Africa Services:, ParentChild+:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State

Horn of Africa Services: Seattle, WA, ParentChild+: Mineola, NY
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Attachments (5)

Graduation 4.jpg

Photo from the first Horn of Africa ParentChild+ graduating class in Washington state USA

Graduation 3.jpg

Photo from the first Horn of Africa ParentChild+ graduating class in Washington state USA

Graduation 2.jpg

Photo from the first Horn of Africa ParentChild+ graduating class in Washington state USA

Graduation 1.jpg

“You opened my eyes so that I can see my child’s future. Thank you.” --Horn of Africa Services, ParentChild+ parent. Photo from the first Horn of Africa ParentChild+ graduating class in Washington state USA


Photo of a home visit with a Horn of Africa Services, ParentChild+ child in Washington state, USA


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