Caring Across Communities: Addressing Mental Health Needs of Diverse Children and Youth

An RWJF National Program

Field of Work: School-connected mental health services

Problem Synopsis: Children from immigrant and refugee families are at higher risk than other children for depression, anxiety, lack of self-esteem, social isolation, lack of social integration, and undiagnosed mental health disorders. They have limited access to mental health care, and often come from cultures where getting help for mental health problems carries stigma.

Synopsis of the Work: Caring Across Communities: Addressing Mental Health Needs of Diverse Children and Youth brought school-connected mental health services to immigrants and refugees at 15 sites in eight states. From 2007 until 2010, the sites developed model mental health programs that engaged schools, families, students, mental health agencies, and other community organizations in building culturally appropriate, readily available services for children and youth.

Key Results

  • Caring Across Communities programs offered services that ranged from schoolwide mental health promotion, to culturally responsive group and individual counseling, to home visits and help with connecting to social services. The programs supported more than 9,000 students from 55 countries at 36 schools and engaged more than 4,600 parents/caregivers, and partnered with more than 4,500 teachers, counselors, school health professionals, and others.

    The program also created tools to facilitate the design and implementation of school-connected mental health services for immigrant and refugee students that are available on the program's website.

    The evaluation found that four components of mental health services for immigrant and refugee children are essential:

    • Engaging with families
    • Meeting their basic needs
    • Supporting their efforts to adapt to a new culture
    • Providing emotional and behavioral supports

    These components follow a hierarchy of needs starting with family engagement and ending with emotional and behavioral support. They must be seamlessly integrated so families can turn to one person to gain access to all services.