Every year, thousands of people migrate to the U.S. from all over the world seeking safety, education, and economic prosperity or simply put, a chance at a better life. These immigrants and their families face various challenges from language and cultural barriers to economic realities associated with starting anew in a foreign country.
Social workers who specialize in working with refugees, immigrants and their families can alleviate some of these challenges by providing counseling and connecting immigrants to valuable resources.
For example, one of the common issues social workers may help with is resolving the client’s immigration status. In such cases, social workers usually collaborate with legal professionals. Apart from connecting their client with an attorney, their role may include gathering important documentation, writing detailed reports that can support their client’s case, and serving as a primary contact to law enforcement officials.
Beyond immigration, social workers may also work with newly arrived refugees and their families by helping them adjust to their new surroundings. This may include leading cultural orientations, providing job placement assistance, supporting clients through social services referrals and much more.
Also, refugees who escaped hostile environments or have experienced traumatic events in their home country may need specialized counseling. Social work counselors with trauma training can help these individuals recover and move forward with their lives.
Social workers may also become involved in advocacy related issues that impact this population. According to the National Association of Social Workers, “Social workers are often stopped from effectively assisting [immigrant and refugee] clients due to punitive laws and policies denying access to needed resources.” To that end, social workers help by designing and coordinating community support programs, advocating for stronger refugee resettlement services and doing research that can inform and influence policy changes.
At Limestone College, students pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work Program who may be interested in practice with immigrants and refugees can get hands-on experience by completing their practicum requirement at a social services agency specializing in these services. A strong core curriculum including courses such as SW 209 – Practice with Culturally Diverse Populations and SW 301 – Social Work Intervention: Individuals, Families, and Small Groups will help students gain theoretical knowledge and skills needed to excel in this discipline.