- Julio López Varona, JD
- Michele Kilpatrick, JD
- Julia Henly, PhD
Research Project Description
Using a Community Based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR) framework, this project investigated the lived experiences of low-income and working class immigrant families in Bridgeport, Connecticut. A primary focus was to understand how labor market conditions shape families’ caregiving experiences with implications for children’s health and wellbeing. Through a range of data-gathering approaches (e.g., focus groups, individual interviews, youth photography, secondary analysis of survey data), and diverse dissemination tactics (e.g., hosting community events, publishing policy and research briefs, supporting educational workshops), the project activities revealed economic, social, & political sources of marginalization; highlighted immigrant family experiences with paid work and caregiving and the systems that support or compromise access to services and institutions; engaged adolescents and adults in activities to define community needs; and identified strengths and opportunities in the Bridgeport community to improve child and family wellbeing. A few key project findings included: (1) Economic and employment challenges, coupled with transportation, housing, health and food insecurities are significant stressors for an important share of Bridgeport residents; (2) Community infrastructure in Bridgeport is fragmented and under-resourced resulting in inadequate and insufficient schools, early education and child care supports, health care services, and public transportation; (3) Current political climate heightens risks and challenges for immigrant families, especially families without documentation and mixed-status families; (4) Immigrants report increased fear and anxiety, heightened risks of visibility, strengthened legal enforcement, lack of access to (and denial of) health services, limited language supports, and discrimination and poor treatment by employers, educators, and service providers; (5) Immigrant residents engage in range of survival strategies to address stressors and system barriers (e.g., shared caregiving; informal health remedies; informal education and employment opportunities) and emphasized benefits of mobilization, education and advocacy efforts (e.g. Make the Road CT-sponsored activities such as know-your-rights training; educational workshops; sanctuary city campaign; language action campaign; many other community and state actions). Overall, this project engaged Bridgeport community youth and adult residents to support evidence-based policy innovation and positive community change to further a culture of health for immigrant families in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It also expanded the capacity of each team member and their respective institutions to incorporate a participatory, health equity focus into research and community engagement projects.
Watch the Team Video
Julio López Varona, JD
Julio López Varona is the Director of Puerto Rico Campaigns at the Center for Popular Democracy. In this role, he works to support immigrants to be active in their communities and to lift themselves out of poverty through legal and support services, civic engagement, transformative education and policy innovation.
Michele Kilpatrick, JD
Michele Kilpatrick is a Research Analyst at The Center for Popular Democracy. She has expertise in supporting political and labor campaigns.
Julia Henly, PhD
Julie Henly is an Associate Professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. Her research focuses on families’ economic and caregiving strategies. She studies how employment conditions, work and child care policies, and social networks operate to support and complicate family wellbeing.
IRL Issue Brief: Bridgeport, CT