South Asian dads suffer separation the most acutely

August 14, 2012 - News

Staff Writer
A small but growing trend among South Asian communities — in common with some other immigrant groups — is a bid for the head of the family, or the couple, to migrate in search of good jobs in the family’s larger interests, leaving their children behind.
But be warned: fathers in particular suffer disproportionately during such separations, warns a new research paper issued in Toronto this week.
It is not uncommon for some immigrant parents to be separated from their children, note researchers in a study conducted by Ceris, the Ontario Metropolis Centre.
“For some families, the separation from their child can be based on the desire to keep children in traditional education of the home country,” the paper says.
“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,” it adds.
“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.”
Chinese, South Asian and African-Caribbean groups showed both similarities and differences in their cases of parent-child separation, including the timing and length ofseparation, the researchers said.
They noted, “Better opportunities in the receiving country often did not happen, causing stress during re-settlement.
“The separations also resulted in weakened emotional ties between parents and children, and distress on both sides.”
What was particularly poignant was that parents felt they had no choice, since the separation was seen as a way of coping with difficult circumstances.
Once burnt, twice shy
However, the study noted, parents would likely not separate again. They were also unanimous that better system-wide resources are needed to support new immigrants.
The 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.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with community leaders, mental health service providers and focus groups in the South Asian, African-Caribbean and Chinese Canadian immigrant communities.
While this was an exploratory study that needs to go further, the researchers argued these early findings underline the need for increased resources in Toronto to support families that have separated from their children during or after migration.
The need for more affordable child care facilities and parent educational opportunities should also be considered as an important policy goal, they added.
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