Social Work

How Social Workers Can Help Immigrants And Refugees

How Social Workers Can Help Immigrants And Refugees
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Nedda Gilbert profile
Nedda Gilbert August 30, 2018

There are many personal and professional rewards to earning a Master of Social Work (MSW) and becoming a licensed social worker. Most social workers have a strong drive to help people and improve lives. This desire to serve may be inspired by a personal experience of adversity, an interest in what makes people tick, or a calling to activism. Whatever the inspiration, social workers are defined by purpose, compassion and action.

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Social workers are found in every community, and in a variety of roles. Their function is vital, no matter what they do or where they’re employed.

An important practice area for social workers is immigrant and refugee assistance. Social workers in this field help individuals and communities deal with the unique challenges of immigration policies, including limited family visitation, family separation, family reunification, and emotional and social issues arising from assimilating into a new community.

Social workers might also play an essential role in immigrant and refugee communities by reporting issues such as employer exploitation, domestic violence, sex crimes, and child abuse to social service and law enforcement agencies. They act as mediators for individuals who are hesitant to report offenses due to fear of deportation.

Finally, as advocates, social workers play a role in standing up for immigrants who are the victims of anti-immigrant policies and discriminatory practices.

Helping with Resettlement

A primary focus of social work for immigrants and refugees is the identification and management of the social and emotional issues inherent in adapting to resettlement.

Areas in which social workers help:

  • Basic needs support

  • Crisis intervention

  • War and refugee trauma

  • Case management with referrals to social service agencies

  • Mental health counseling and support

  • Language supports

  • Help with education

  • Help with job search and employment issues

  • Integration with established residents in the area

  • Housing

  • Cultural disorientation

  • Loneliness

  • Adaptation to new community and cultural norms

  • Child protective welfare

  • Substance abuse

Social workers who help immigrants and refugees are also well positioned to work abroad; they become qualified for international humanitarian work in underserved and high–need villages and countries. In some MSW programs, immigrant social work falls under the banner of global social work; international fieldwork placements might even be available for those students.

Locally, MSWs can develop an expertise in working with immigrants and refugees through coursework and dedicated fieldwork experiences. If interested in immigrant and refugee work, students should aim for fieldwork placements in resettlement agencies or in not-for-profit organizations that specialize in helping these vulnerable populations.

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About the Author

Ms. Nedda Gilbert is a seasoned clinical social worker, author, and educational consultant with 25 years of experience helping college-bound and graduate students find their ideal schools. She is a prolific author, including The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and Essays that Made a Difference. Ms. Gilbert has been a guest writer for Forbes and a sought-after keynote speaker on college admissions. Previously, she played a crucial role at the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company and was Chairman of the Board of Graduate Philadelphia. Ms. Gilbert holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University and is a certified interdisciplinary collaborative family law professional in New Jersey.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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