Community Health Promotion & Prevention
Newcomer Girls Violence Prevention Project
In January 2003, the Department of Children Youth and Their Families (DCYF), Department of Public Health (DPH), Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), Vietnamese Youth Development Center (VYDC), and evaluator San Francisco State University (SFSU), embarked on an assessment of issues and strengths among Latino and Southeast Asian newcomer girls. Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the collaborative recognized the assessment provided many opportunities insofar that such an assessment had not been conducted in San Francisco, nor in many other locales. This project was housed under the auspices of the Gang Free Communities Initiative.
Several factors led to the initiation of this project. San Francisco is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse communities in the United States. Often called a “city of refuge,” San Francisco has a large percentage of foreign-born residents. While difficult to track exact numbers of immigrants due to issues such as different data sets, aggregated data and undocumented immigrants, some demographics are available. Over 34% of the city’s residents were foreign-born in 1990, approximately half of them arrived in the U.S. in the 1980’s (U.S. Census, 2000). In the early to mid 1990’s the two largest groups of documented immigrants in San Francisco came from Asia (particularly Southeast Asia) and Latin America, and the predominant non-English languages spoken are Spanish, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Tagalog. Asian/Pacific Islander (API) youth comprise about 43% of youth ages 5-17 in San Francisco. The city also has a very large, but uncounted population of undocumented immigrants, particularly from Latin America. The largest group of long-term refugees is Southeast Asian, primarily Vietnamese, with a small number of refugee arrivals still coming into the city. Many Vietnamese have naturalized and are now immigrating family members through non-refugee channels.
The goal of this project is to give voice to and understand the experience of immigrant females, in light of very little information about this population. The focus was trained on young women for a number of reasons: work conducted by DPH’s YouthPOWER project identified mental health as a concern, particularly for Latinas and the Gang Free Communities Initiative also noted the need for focused work among young women. Young immigrant women are often the silent population, supporting their families by doing cooking, shopping or watching the younger children after school; becoming adults well before their time. Their issues or concerns are often simply overlooked, for any number of reasons, among them simply their gender and age. Our goal was to identify prevention strategies to keep young immigrant women from getting involved with the juvenile justice system and support a successful transition for the young women into adulthood and U.S. culture.
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