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Children Exposed to Violence: Tips for Agencies Working With Immigrant Families

NCJ Number
Date Published
5 pages
After explaining why children born to immigrant families are at increased risk for exposure to violence, this paper reviews the adverse impact on children exposed to violence, outlines the warning signs in children and youth exposed to violence, and recommends ways in which staff in agencies serving immigrants can address this issue.
Children of immigrants are more likely than children of American-born citizens to face economic hardships and significant barriers to healthy social and emotional development. One of these barriers is exposure to violence, which can adversely affect children's and youths' performance in school and in employment. Poverty, language barriers, living in rural areas, and being undocumented are barriers to immigrant families' seeking services for mental health needs. This is an additional risk for serious trauma among immigrant children and youth exposed to violence. Early and effective interventions that are culturally sensitive and family centered can help immigrant children exposed to violence begin a healing process. This paper outlines the warning signs of exposure to violence for children 5 years old and younger, elementary-age children (6-12 years old), and teens (13-18 years old). Five recommendations are presented for addressing this issue by agencies serving immigrant families. First, regularly screen for symptoms of exposure to violence and mental health needs of children and their families. Second, refer families for comprehensive mental health assessment that includes lifetime exposure to violence and acculturation stressors. Third, conduct individualized interventions that encompass traumatic experiences for caregivers and their children. Fourth, expand the definition of "trauma-informed care" and "evidence-based intervention." Fifth, increase cultural responsiveness to families. 3 resource listings

Date Published: January 1, 2011