To ensure a safe and caring environment for children and youth
Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Inc.
Refugee Youth Program
The Refugee Youth Program provides 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.
The Refugee Youth Program is holistic in nature. Primary service components include the following:
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.
All refugee groups are served including Burundians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Somalis, Sudanese, Iraqis, Cubans, Burmese, and Bhutanese.
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.
Full-time program staff includes a Program Coordinator, Youth Education Specialist, Family Education Specialist, School Liaison Caseworker, School Readiness Caseworker and Program Assistant (Jesuit Volunteer). 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.
The performance of the Refugee Youth Program is measured in the following ways:
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. The Program Coordinator, School Liaison Caseworker, School Readiness Caseworker, Youth Education Specialist and Family Education Specialist meet together and review all feedback on each participant. 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.
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.
The key to our program’s success is our ability to integrate services. The Refugee Youth Program complements the Resettlement, Social Services, and Individual Development Account programs. 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.
The program is currently developing strategies to make the after-school and summer programming trauma-informed. The goal is to address the impact of the refugee experience and the resettlement experience has on a child's sense of security and coping skills.
Youth & Elders Services Coordinator
Catholic Charities, Refugee Services
This program began in 2004 and is still operating as of September 2011.