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New Program Helps KC Refugees, Immigrants


Kansas City, Missouri – The majority of the refugees and immigrants Jewish Vocational Services currently serve are Somali, Bhutanese, Burmese and Sudanese. Tara Atkinson, a social worker at JVS, says the majority of the people who've made it here from those countries often suffer from trauma. Many of them, she says, have experienced war, lost family, or have been tortured. It makes the resettlement process even more difficult, but Atkinson says that's no reason to doubt their ability to make a life here.

"It's important to remember that only 1 percent of world's refugees are actually resettled to a third country like the United States," Atkinson says. "For them to be able to get here means they have shown resiliency and should be able to become self-sufficient in this country."

United States courts and counselors are not always equipped to handle the issues facing refugees and immigrants. Atkinson says immigrants may misunderstand how to navigate United States court systems or have no idea what their rights are. JVS noticed the gap in services for their clients and are hoping to address it with a new program, the Refugee-Immigrant Social Integration Program.

The program is a partnership between JVS and the municipal court system. They are working to translate court documents into more languages and have held cultural competency training sessions within the municipal court. The program will also allow JVS to conduct in-house therapy and attend therapy sessions with their clients at other facilities.

"A lot of our refugees are from countries where accessing services looks a lot different than it does here," Atkinson said. "Even educating clients that they police are a good resource and they are here to help is a step in itself."

The Refugee-Immigrant Social Integration Program was funded by a grant from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. JVS hopes the program will help up to 200 new clients referred from the City's Domestic Violence Victim Assistance Program, Mental Health Court and Drug Courts.

This story was produced for KC Currents. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents Podcast.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Susan admits that her “first love” was radio, being an avid listener since childhood. However, she spent much of her career in mental health, healthcare administration, and sports psychology (Susan holds a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Bloch School of Business at UMKC.) In the meantime, Wilson satisfied her journalistic cravings by doing public speaking, providing “expert” interviews for local television, and being a guest commentator/contributor to KPRS’s morning drive time show and the teen talk show “Generation Rap.”
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