Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Inc.

Program Name

Refugee Youth Program

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

The Refugee Youth Program provides trauma-informed support services supportive services to youth and their families to facilitate the acculturation process.  Special emphasis is placed on helping children and youth succeed in school and on helping families navigate and understand the Metropolitan Nashville Public School system.

Program Description

The Refugee Youth Program is holistic in nature.  Primary service components include the following:

  • Afterschool and Summer Programming. Trauma-informed afterschool and summer programming focusing on helping students and families develop the 40 Developmental Assets (Search Institute), while providing tutoring in English and mathematic fundamentals, homework help and life skills.  Emphasis is on project-based learning.  Students who have been in the country for less than one year, as well as those whose education has been significantly interrupted by the refugee experience, are given priority for these programs.  There is no fee for participation, and transportation is provided.  The programs can accommodate up to 70 students at time; an additional 30 students can participate in Leadership Clubs, which are designed for students who have been in the country for more than two years and emphasize leadership skills that can be used for the benefit of each participant's particular community (for example: public speaking and advocacy skills, emergency response training, community mapping, etc).
  • School Readiness.  Our School Readiness Program provides school preparation for children during their first three weeks after arrival, while they are still working to meet the medical requirements necessary for public school enrollment (immunizations and physicals).  Children from all grade levels meet in a classroom environment for four hours each day and work from a curriculum that was developed in conjunction with the Metropolitan Nashville Public School’s International Newcomer Academy.  Basic English and math facts are reviewed, and children are taught basic school and emergency vocabulary.  Children are socialized to the school day, including the structure of the day, cafeteria and bus procedures, and the function of various school personnel.  This program culminates with a school orientation for parents and a visit to each student’s regular school.  Catholic Charities has a mini school bus to transport the children to their office where the program meets.  
  • School Casework.  Our School Casework program assists families with the enrollment and registration program, as well as with updating immunizations.  Additionally, our School Caseworker is able to serve as a liaison between families and schools and as a family advocate during Support Team (meetings to discuss behavior issues) and IEP meetings.  All children resettled in Nashville or arriving as second migrants are eligible for these services during their first school year.  Those who have been in school for more than one year may be served when referred by a school official. 
  • School Personnel Trainings.  Training is provided to teachers and school personnel (approximately 90/year) regarding the resettlement process, working across cultures, and mitigating the impact of trauma on development. Additional support and training can be provided upon request.
  • Family Workshops.  Family Workshops are designed to educate parents about various aspects of American culture.  Within their first month in the United States, all parents of school-aged children participate in a workshop on American schools.  Additional workshops are held on a bi-monthly basis addressing such issues as health and safety, nutrition, laws, academic success, and parenting.  We also provide English classes with an emphasis on cultural orientation and community participation.  These workshops are open to all refugee parents, and they are presented in a linguistically and culturally appropriate manner.

Resource Materials Used in Program

A variety of materials and curricula are used in the program, including but not limited to The Afterschool Training Toolkit from SEDL, Cultural Orientation for Refugees from the Cultural Orientation Resource Center, and Academic Content Afterschool Style from Foundation.

Groups Served by Program

All refugee groups are served including Burundians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Somalis, Sudanese, Iraqis, Cubans, Burmese, and Bhutanese.

Program Funding

Diversified funding sources are an important part of the program’s success.  The program is partially funded by a Refugee School Impact Grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement.  In addition, the program is funded by the Tennessee Department of Education’s Lottery for Education: Afterschool Programs, the federal Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Center funding), and a variety of smaller foundations.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

Full-time program staff includes a Program Coordinator, Youth Education Specialist, School Liaison Caseworker, School Readiness Caseworker and Program Assistant.  Part-time Program Assistants and Interns work in the afterschool and summer programs.  All staff must undergo Safe Environments Training, First Aid & CPR certification and two 16-Hour In-Service programs per year.  In-Service topics include intercultural communication, family involvement, project-based learning, Positive Youth Development, Working with Volunteers and Childcare Regulations.

Program Evaluation

The performance of the Refugee Youth Program is measured in the following ways:

  • School grade, attendance, and behavior reports
  • Standardized test scores
  • Pre- & post- tests that measure social adjustment, healthy relationships, and self-esteem
  • Pre- and post-tests that measure the knowledge gained and the behaviors implemented as a result of family enrichment workshops
  • Staff observation, volunteer reports, and teacher & parent feedback forms

Data from schools is collected at the end of each semester.  All other data is collected quarterly or at the time of a workshop.  Case conferences are held in January and in May.  During this time we look at overall family functioning and revise each family's service plan as needed.   We pay special attention to the academic progress of each child and incorporate our analysis of his or her progress into our planning for the after-school and summer programs.

Program Outcomes

Over time, we have seen that 100% of participants who remain in the program for at least six months have increased their grades in at least one core academic subject.  We have seen the most substantial jump in math grades, with several students increasing their grades over 20 points.  At least 85% of participants have experienced improvements in relationships with family and peers.  95% of participants have avoided delinquent behavior at school and within the community.  100% of parents who attend family enrichment workshops have demonstrated a greater understanding of American culture, laws, and schools.  Over 30% of parents have shown an increase in involvement in their children’s schools by attending at least one school meeting or function.  Teachers have also noted an increase in confidence in program participants, and 97% of teachers have reported a greater understanding of participants’ cultures and families.  93% of teachers feel better equipped to serve refugee children as a result of the services provided by The Refugee Youth Program.

Additional Comments

The key to our program's success is our ability to integrate services.  The Refugee Youth Program complements the Resettlement and Social Services.  The services provided to parents are provided in tandem to services to the children.  While parents are receiving cultural orientation and financial literacy training, the children are receiving the same information in age-appropriate ways through our after-school and summer programs.  Both the parents and the children are given "assignments" that encourage them to further discuss these topics in the home.

Program Contact

Jennifer Escue
Youth & Elders Services Coordinator
(615) 760-2784

Program Dates

This program began in 2004 and is still operating as of  March 2014.