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Parent-infant separation in transnational families: Risk, resilience and the needs of young immigrant parents

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Research summary
Bohr, Yvonne; Hynie, Michaela; Whitfield, Natasha; Shih, Cynthia & Zafar, Sadia
Publication Date: 
30 Aug 2012


Toronto is one of the world's most ethnically diverse cities and is continuously praised for its multicultural image. It is estimated that by 2031, visible minorities will in fact become the majority. However, many families maintain ties with their home country and may be defined as "transnational families", meaning that they have social bonds, and even homes, in both countries. It is not uncommon for some immigrant parents to be separated from their children. For some families, the separation from their child can be based on the desire to keep children in traditional education of the home country. Other parents may be forced to leave their child or to send them back to their country of origin due to the financial pressures of being immigrants as they pursue a better life in Canada. Some parents are not able to support their child and cover basic rent and living costs in their adopted country, and are forced to separate. This study used a community-based participatory action approach to examine and address the problem of family separation in three Toronto immigrant communities where families often live apart.


How can you use this research?
While this was an exploratory study that needs to go further, these early findings argue for the need of increased resources in Toronto to support families that have separated from their children during or after migration. Policy recommendations are necessarily linked to immigration processes and practices. The results also support the demand for more efficient and transparent licensing and certification processes so that immigrants with children might be integrated more quickly into an appropriate sector of the Canadian labour market. The need for more affordable child care facilities and parent educational opportunities should also be considered as an important policy goal.