Although they are often severe, the mental health needs of immigrant and refugee students are frequently unidentified. These students usually have limited access to mental health care and face barriers of culture as well as language Some develop more serious mental health conditions. Many fade into the background, often viewed as disinterested or unwilling to learn, and they fall farther and farther behind academically. At the same time, No Child Left Behind holds schools accountable for the academic achievement of these very students.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) recognized the need for mental health care for this critical population and launched a new program in March 2007.
Under the Caring Across Communities (CAC) Initiative, RWJF awarded grants totaling $4.5 million to 15 projects aimed at reducing emotional and behavioral health problems among students in low-income immigrant and refugee families. The grants support a range of innovative partnerships among schools, mental health service providers, and immigrant or refugee community organizations.
The Caring Across Communities project directors share information with national program leaders at the Center for Health and Health Care in School at The George Washington University, as well as with each other at collaborative meetings. A number of successful strategies have emerged for engaging immigrant and refugee families in support of their children’s mental health.