Newsletter Article

Research to Action: A Partnership to Support and Strengthen Families

When Caroline Sawe was an undergraduate research assistant with Dr. Liliana Lengua’s Kid’s World Project, her job was to rate parents’ behaviors while they were interacting with their children. This is a challenging job for anyone, but for Caroline it was particularly challenging to make sense of the kinds of behaviors on which the research project was focused. The reason was that Caroline is originally from Tanzania, Africa, and cultural differences in perspectives on parenting became obvious as Caroline and Liliana worked together. 

After graduating from Seattle University, Caroline started a non-profit organization, Center for Well-being of Africans in America, aimed at providing health and education support to families who had emigrated from Africa. At the same time, concerns were rising about the health and well-being of the youth in the communities of African immigrant families, who are sometimes struggling in school and running into problems with the law. 

That’s when Caroline got back in touch with Liliana, and they started a partnership between CWAA and the Child and Family Well-being Research Group to support parents in promoting well-being among the youth of the immigrant communities. For Caroline, who has a background in biomedical research, it was very important to bring a research perspective to efforts aimed at improving the lives of children and families in Seattle's African communities. 

Caroline spearheaded an effort to meet with community leaders and parents of families from Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea to better understand the concerns and challenges they faced raising their children in the U.S.  These meetings led to fruitful insights about the experiences of families in these communities.  The information will be used to tailor an empirically supported parenting program to be attuned to the cultural values of these communities and to specifically address the concerns of immigrant parents. In the coming year, Caroline and Liliana will be seeking funding support to conduct and evaluate a program to support parents in the African communities of Seattle.