Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Jewish Family & Children's Service - Refugee & Immigration Services

Program Name

Pittsburgh Refugee Healthy Families Program

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

For refugees, arriving in a new country is a wonderful opportunity to begin again. The Pittsburgh Refugee Healthy Families Program, coordinated by Jewish Family & Children's Service, helps ethnically-diverse populations and refugees learn ways to maintain healthy families, develop better communication skills and resolve conflicts as they adjust to American culture. Culturally-sensitive training is provided on communication and money management. Working with several partner organizations, Healthy Families reaches many refugees in the Greater Pittsburgh area.

Program Description

Four bi-weekly, two-hour sessions are offered for adults. Teaching methods include lecture, class discussion, role play, guest speakers, handouts, etc. All sessions are voluntary; make-up sessions are offered so that participants can cover all material and graduate from the program. Certificates are provided to graduates, which has been an important incentive, especially to Burmese and Karen refugees, who are honored and very proud of the recognition. Translators are present during class.

Workshops are intended for anyone who wants to develop skills that will strengthen families and relationships. Pittsburgh Healthy Families offers two programs:

  • Active Communication, including listening skills, states of mind, successful communication, defining destructive behavior, resolving differences, managing your inner climate and relational journeys
  • Active Money Personalities, including money temperament, money origins, money messages, mapping money triggers, shared meaning and optimism, destructive behavior and assumption of goodwill.

Home visits are not a part of Healthy Families (although they are part of our refugee resettlement services), but Pittsburgh Healthy Families programs are on-site in the communities where participating refugees live. In one community, a partner organization provides space (Prospect Park Family Center). In another community, an apartment was converted into a classroom.

Local partner organizations build strong coalitions with JF&CS's refugee program and organize community events. Healthy Families partners include Catholic Charities, Acculturation for Justice, Access and Peace Outreach, South Hills Interfaith Ministries, Prospect Park Family Center, Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, Allegheny Intermediate Unit and Welcome Center for Immigrants and Internationals. Welcome Center for Immigrants & Internationals.

Resource Materials Used in Program

Enrollment paperwork; handouts (such as budget worksheets). Varies depending on participating group's literacy. Materials are sourced from HIAS, which uses Active Relationships Center (ARC) materials.

Groups Served by Program

Adults; population specific because of language. When taught in English, groups are multi-ethnic. Program is for refugees, asylees and victims of human trafficking, according to funding.

Program Funding

Funding for this program comes from Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which receives funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement through their Refugee Healthy Marriage Program.  The current 5 year funding period is coming to an end this year (2011) and the program is joining proposals with other organizations to continue the program.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

The program has three staff members at JF & CS (one social worker and two facilitators). In addition, there is one facilitator at a partner organization (Prospect Park Family Center) and two interpreters.

Program Evaluation

Program success is determined partly by the number of graduates - those participants who attend all sessions. On a qualitative level, success is determined on an individual basis - does it improve each participant's relationship skills? Does it lead to increased self-sufficiency and independence? JF & CS has anecdotal evidence supporting that Healthy Families, along with JF & CS's acculturation workshops and one-on-one meetings with case managers, does ease refugee transitions and understandings.

JF & CS is starting to incorporate pre- and post-workshop surveys that were developed by HIAS to evaluate the program more formally. Using a Likert scale, the surveys were developed specifically for Healthy Families and will be used at all Healthy Families sites, so that data can be aggregated and analyzed.

Program Outcomes

The drop-out rate is minimal.  Overall, 33 individuals graduated in 2007, and 46 graduated in 2008 (as of July, 2008), and 20 couples graduated September 2011.  Contact the program coordinator for more information on graduation outcomes for previous years.

Additional Comments

An important consideration when facilitating Healthy Families workshops is the level of directness in regards to each culture's communication style. If necessary, the lessons then can be modified for better understanding. Understanding the culture's gender roles and deciding if the group would benefit from divided classes is also important.

Program Contact

Dawn Zuckerman, MSW
Refugee and Immigrant Employment Program Coordinator
(412) 422-7200

Program Dates

Staff training for the program began December 2006 and workshops began January 2007. The Pittsburgh Refugee Healthy Families Program primarily serves JF&CS clients, but in Summer 2008, the program began offering classes to refugee clients from partner organizations. The program is still operating as of September 2011.