Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Jewish Family Service of Colorado

Program Name

International Kid Success - School Based Counseling Program for Refugee Children

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

The main objectives of the International KidSuccess program are to:

  • Increase refugee students' knowledge about the US school culture, sense of belonging to school and motivation to succeed academically.
  • Increase success in refugee students' school adjustment by addressing their social, emotional and mental health needs. 
  • Increase school participation, interaction with peers and leadership skills/roles among refugee students.
  • Increase knowledge on mental health issues affecting refugee youth and effective school-based strategies for assuring refugee student success at school among educators and mental health professionals working with refugee students across the state of Colorado.
  • Increase confidence about planning/implementing cultural adjustment groups and other school-based interventions for refugee youth.
  • Provide consultations for school staff focusing on specific interventions, cultural considerations, and/or community resources that can be of help in resolving difficult situations.
  • Collaborate with schools and other community agencies in order to address the unique needs of refugee youth.

Program Description

International KidSuccess (IKS) provides culturally sensitive and trauma informed school-based counseling services that help refugee children and adolescents adjust to their new school, culture, and home in the United States.  An overarching goal of the program is to support refugee youth through the major life transition of resettlement so that they are better able to focus on and succeed in school. The IKS school-based counseling services are provided to highly impacted Denver metro and Aurora public schools.  

The IKS program offers: 

  • Group counseling focused on improving school adjustment and promoting leadership among refugee students: cultural adjustment groups, peer helpers program, leadership projects and classroom sessions on diversity.
  • Individual counseling to address cultural adjustment struggles, numerous losses, past trauma and other mental health issues affecting refugee students' well-being and success at school.
  • Consultation for educators and mental health professionals who work with refugee students on cultural considerations, specific issues and providing culturally appropriate support and community resources.
  • Statewide Training on enhancing understanding of how cultural adjustment and trauma issues affect refugee youth and providing educators and mental health professionals with culturally sensitive strategies for assuring refugee students' smooth adjustment and success at school.

Resource Materials Used in Program

Thanks to a joint initiative of Jewish Family Service's International KidSuccess Program and the Colorado Refugee Services Program, the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Guide, Refugee Education and Schools Promoting Empowerment and Culture of Tolerance, for School Social Workers, Counselors, Psychologists and Educators was created. The goal of this guide is to help school professionals better understand the social-emotional needs of refugee youth and to give them the essentials on how to facilitate cultural adjustment groups for middle and high school refugee youth. The R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Guide is being published on Jewish Family Service of Colorado website and could be downloaded at http://jewishfamilyservice.org/_literature_146763/RESPECT_Guide

Groups Served by Program

In Denver metro and Aurora public schools, the newly-arrived refugee youth served by IKS are primarily Bhutanese, Congolese, Somali, Eritrean, Iraqi, and various groups from Burma.

The IKS training initiative is provided to school staff of highly impacted school districts and other professionals working with refugees across the state of Colorado.

Program Funding

The program is funded by a Refugee School Impact Grant from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and is also funded by community foundations and in-kind contributions.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

Master's and Doctoral level licensed therapists, trained in multicultural counseling and trauma, are providing mental health services to refugee youth at school, as well as consultation and training for school staff and other professionals working with refugees.

Program Evaluation

IKS has used the following qualitative measures to evaluate programming: group participants' initial and final surveys, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) initial and follow up assessment for individual students, training participants' evaluations, teacher feedback surveys, as well as tracking refugee participants in the program advancement to the next English Language Acquisition (ELA) level. The IKS qualitative measures focus on decrease in mental health symptoms, improvement of overall difficulties, school adjustment, academic performance, and leadership skills among refugee youth, as well as increased knowledge and understanding of the unique experiences and mental health needs of refugee youth for training participants.

Program Outcomes

Feedback gathered through anonymous students, teachers and training participants' surveys during the 2013-2014 school year show that IKS is making an impact:

  • 99 % of students reported that they understand better the U.S. school culture. 94.5% of students reported and that they care more about their education as a result of coming to the groups.
  • 93.5 % of student participants in IKS programs advanced to the next ELA level.
  • 100% of refugee students receiving training through the Peer Helpers projects reported increase in sense of belonging and connectedness to school, communication, social and leadership skills.
  • Teachers reported definite improvement in students' understanding of U.S. school culture and relationships with teachers and peers. 
In the area of statewide training:
  • 100% of training participants reported increased knowledge and understanding of the unique experiences and mental health needs of refugee youth.
  • 100% of training respondents have increased their ideas of working with students cross-culturally.
  • 100% of respondents have learned about different group interventions for refugee students and have expanded their ideas about planning/implementing school-based outreach for refugee youth.

Additional Comments

Program Contact

Ralitsa Rano, PhD, LCSW,
Coordinator of International KidSuccess
Jewish Family Service of Colorado 
303-597-7777 x4641  
rrano@jewishfamilyservice.org

Stacey Weisberg, LPC
Director of Mental Health Services
Jewish Family Service of Colorado
303-597-7777 x4656
sweisberg@jewishfamilyservice.org

http://jewishfamilyservice.org/

Program Dates

This program began in 2000 and it is still operating as of April 2014.