Real Talk w/CJLead Case Manager Linsley Rivas of St. Jerome’s Home for Children will discuss serving unaccompanied refugee youth who come to the U.S. to escape war, poverty and neglect.
Tue, Apr 19, 2016
Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom
“Many of these refugees have lost their parents or have been neglected,” said Linsley Rivas, Lead Case Manager for the program. “They live in a war environment or in poverty where they were forced to go to work at a young age.”
The program, operated by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, serves 72 youth ages 15-17 from Africa, Central America, Indonesia, and Mexico, to name a few. St. Jerome’s consists of two agency homes in Fort Bend County, with the capacity to care for six to eight male or female refugees at each, as well as trained foster care homes in various locations in Harris County. In addition to placement, the program provides a wide variety of support, including:
- Indirect financial support for housing, food, clothing, and other necessities
- Intensive case management by a social worker
- Independent living skills training
- Education/English as a Second Language (ESL)
- Job skills training and career/college counseling
- Mental health services
- On-going family tracing and, where possible, cultural activities/recreation
- Special education services, when needed
- Legal assistance.
“Many of our students go on to complete their GEDs, high school diplomas, technical certificates or study at universities,” said Rivas.
One of the main goals of the program is reunification with family in the United States or abroad. To help with the transition to the adult world, St. Jerome’s offers ongoing services to youth through age 22.
Because of unrest all over the world, serving unaccompanied refugee youth is a growing field and several residential centers and programs are located in Texas. These programs need professionals who specialize in diverse disciplines, including case managers, social workers, youth care workers, foster parents, educators, foster home developers, and supervisors. Riva said there are two key characteristics needed to work in this field: passion and diligence. “We can’t be completely desensitized to what is going on in the world,” she said. “We need to help, and you have to be tough.”