Refugee children are at high developmental risk due to dislocation and deprivation. Standardized developmental screening in this diverse population is challenging. We used the Health Belief Model to guide key-informant interviews and focus groups with medical interpreters, health care providers, community collaborators, and refugee parents to explore key elements needed for developmental screening. Cultural and community-specific values and practices related to child development and barriers and facilitators to screening were examined.


We conducted 19 interviews and 2 focus groups involving 16 Bhutanese-Nepali, Burmese, Iraqi, and Somali participants, 7 community collaborators, and 6 providers from the Center for Refugee Health in Rochester, New York. Subjects were identified through purposive sampling until data saturation. Interviews were recorded, coded, and analyzed using a qualitative framework technique.


Twenty-one themes in 4 domains were identified: values/beliefs about development/disability, practices around development/disability, the refugee experience, and feedback specific to the Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status screen. Most participants denied a word for “development” in their primary language and reported limited awareness of developmental milestones. Concern was unlikely unless speech or behavior problems were present. Physical disabilities were recognized but not seen as problematic. Perceived barriers to identification of delays included limited education, poor healthcare knowledge, language, and traditional healing practices. Facilitators included community navigators, trust in health care providers, in-person interpretation, visual supports, and education about child development.


Refugee perspectives on child development may influence a parent’s recognition of and response to developmental concerns. Despite challenges, standardized screening was supported.

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