Resources Specific to Immigrant or Refugee Populations

What do we mean by trauma-informed services and why is such an approach important?

  • Moving Beyond Trauma: Child Migrants and Refugees in the United States is a resource by Child Trends. It provides information on Refugee and migrant children and their shared common experience of trauma—largely due to exposure to violence and separation from family members. This report denotes that trauma can result in long-term, toxic stress, can impair children’s cognitive, social, and emotional skills, and contribute to risk for disease and early death.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has developed trauma-informed resources related to refugee trauma, focusing on traumatic exposures many refugee children have sustained related to war or persecution, displacement, and resettlement in the US.
  • The Refugee Services Toolkit is a web-based tool designed to help service system providers understand the experience of refugee children and families, identify the needs associated with their mental health, and ensure that they are connected with the most appropriate available interventions.

My agency has decided it wants to be more trauma-informed. Where do I start?

  • For agencies that work with unaccompanied and immigrant minors, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network has developed resources to support trauma-informed approaches to working with this population. The NCTSN resources toolkit on trauma-informed work with unaccompanied and immigrant children and youth, provides perspectives and approaches to assist immigrant youth who have experienced potentially traumatizing experiences both during their journey to the US and upon arriving in this country, related to war, persecution, abuse, trafficking, and violence.
  • The Safe Start Center, a National Resource Center for Children’s Exposure to Violence has developed a tip sheet on Trauma-informed Care for Children Exposed to Violence: Tips For Agencies Working with Immigrant Families. The tip sheet provides helpful guidance on trauma-informed approaches to providing services to children and families that have been exposed to violence in their home countries, and is specifically geared to community organizations and local government agencies working with immigrant families.
  • The National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health has created a self-reflection tool for culturally competent and trauma-informed agencies. While some materials in the guide are tailored to the needs of agencies that provide mental health and domestic violence services, other materials, including the sections on “Think About Trauma,” are broadly applicable to agencies working with refugees and immigrants, particularly survivors of violence, torture, or other traumatic experiences.
  • Making Child Trauma Services Culturally Relevant Through Partnerships with Youth and Families is an online training that outlines the importance of engagement and the mutual benefits of family and youth partnerships. The presentation focuses on building cultural competence into outreach to families. This online training is developed by National Traumatic Stress Network.

We’ve begun working on these issues, but are trying to decide what to tackle next. How can I figure out my next steps?

  • A trauma-informed approach to refugee services may include both helping link clients to clinical behavioral health services when required and using support groups to leverage clients’ community strengths. ACF’s Office of Refugee Resettlement has produced a series of videos, with a User’s Guide available for download, on “Stories of Hope from Bhutanese Refugees: Moving from Distress to Hope.”
  • Refugee-serving programs can help clients using an “Adjustment Support Group” approach to enhance available supports for coping in the refugee population. ACF’s Office of Refugee Resettlement has a free online webinar on “Promoting Emotional Wellness Through Adjustment Support Groups.”

How do I develop the capacity of my staff to deliver trauma-informed services?

  • The Migration and Child Welfare National Network has developed a training resource on Healing the Damage: Trauma and Immigrant Families in the Child Welfare System. While focused on public child welfare agencies, the tool kit describes strategies to build an organization's capacity to better respond to the needs of immigrant families which is broadly applicable to any agency wishing to expand its trauma-informed approach to serving immigrant children and families.
  • This tool kit on social work with immigrant families provides community social workers with tools for trauma-informed services to immigrant families, and may be useful to develop the capacity of staff to serve this population from a trauma-informed lens.
  • The Health Resources and Services Administration has partnered with The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools to develop factsheets for educators and mental health professionals on how to build and foster a culturally competent, trauma-informed school environment that can lead to immigrant and refugee children and youth’s success. These research-based factsheets are applicable to other settings serving immigrant and refugee children, youth, and families.

My staff often burn out from dealing with clients’ trauma constantly. How can I support them?

Where can I learn more about evidence-based and promising interventions to address the effects of trauma?

The NCTSN: Raising the Standard of Care for Traumatized Children and Their Families is a briefing to highlight the identification and development of interventions that are effective for addressing trauma in refugee children, youth, and their families. This would include trauma-informed approaches.


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