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Resettling Vietnamese Amerasians: What have we learned?

Mary Eileen English, University of Massachusetts Amherst


How to assist the child survivors of war is a problem. One of the most traumatic injuries a child can suffer is the loss or displacement of their care-givers. The practical details of what constitutes a helpful intervention are unknown. Beginning in 1975, a group from S.E. Asia, some children of war, traveled to the United States as unaccompanied refugee minors. One purpose of this study is to discover what inner strengths and external resources enabled these young people to create a viable life for themselves in a strange new culture. Another purpose of the study is to explore ways in which therapeutic approaches to working with dislocated children of war can be strengthened and informed. A sub-group of the unaccompanied minors is the Vietnamese Amerasians. Between 25 and 40,000 Vietnamese Amerasians were born to Vietnamese women and American servicemen between 1962 and 1975. An in depth, phenomenological interview was used to record the migration stories of these 11 children. The literature and the interviews supported the conclusion that a major predictor of positive adjustment was length of time the child had spent in the care of parents or parental substitutes before migration and the amount of stable foster care the child received after migration. Additionally, the child's relationship to institutions and case workers as adjunctive caretakers was also found to be a significant factor in adjustment. Finally, the methods employed in the case work required were divergent from the typical child welfare practice due to the importance of paying particular attention to culture and the meaning of “helping relationships” in the original culture.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Social work|Welfare

Recommended Citation

English, Mary Eileen, "Resettling Vietnamese Amerasians: What have we learned?" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3027195.