Lapathee and Family Support Group (LAFS) Pilot Program Evaluation

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By: Jasmine Li, Andrew Koch & Lindsay Angelow
Org: Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services

The social work team at Access Alliance implemented the Lapathee (Karen for 'tea') and Family Support Group (LAFS) program as a pilot program from June to August 2008; the pilot phase of this program involved 6 sessions with 5 Karen families. This report summarizes key findings from the evaluation of this pilot program.


In the beginning of 2008, Access Alliance conducted a mental health project with Government Assisted Refugees. As a part of this project, about 20 Karen people were invited to participate in a half-day focus group. Information shared in this meeting bought the social worker's attention that Karen families have increased experiencing stress related with acculturation and parenting issues. Although most of these participants reported they felt good and relieved after talking out their emotions and feelings, they also reported they tend not to talk about their difficulties in daily life; they are not familiar with mental health services and do not know where to seek help besides their own community.

As a consequence, with the support of management team, a family program coordinator of Access Alliance arranged a community meeting with Karen to discuss about their needs further. In consistent of the focus group, the issues were brought up as the major concerns. As a response to the need of Karen community, Lapathee (Karen for 'tea') and Family Support Group (LAFS) pilot program was developed. The purposes of this group are to address Karen families’ experiencing of acculturation-related stress and parenting issues.


Findings from the evaluation indicate that the pilot program succeeded in meeting its key objectives of bringing together Karen families to engage in multi-family group work to address post-migration family transitions and parent-child relationships issues.

The evaluation suggests three elements that contributed to the success of the program:

  1. Multi-family group work model is an effective, constructive approach for enabling refugee families to (a) discuss shared experiences among each other about family transition and parent-child relationships in post-migration setting; and (b) learn from facilitators as well as from their peers and families about positive, family-centered strategies for addressing these issues. As well, multi-family group work model can be effective even with very recently arrived refugees who have been in Canada for less than two years.
  2. Access Alliance's trained Peer Outreach Worker played a significant role in contributing the group success. The Karen speaking Peer Outreach Worker was seen as "an insider" and "expert." She was invited in the group planning process, participated in each debriefing session and interpreted in every group session. Her language skills, expertise, and knowledge made the program more culturally sensitive and minimized the language barriers.
  3. The group facilitator understood the background and experiences of participants and was able to use the games and metaphors that were easy and familiar to the group participants, stimulating their thoughts and enhancing their enthusiasm in group discussion, sharing, and learning.