Academic journal article School Social Work Journal

Using Integrative Short-Term Treatment in Addressing the Social-Emotional Needs of Immigrant Students: Implications for School Social Work Practice

Academic journal article School Social Work Journal

Using Integrative Short-Term Treatment in Addressing the Social-Emotional Needs of Immigrant Students: Implications for School Social Work Practice

Article excerpt


An immigrant child's ability to succeed in school and the academic institution's ability to assist in this process play an integral part in the child's social-emotional adjustment and development. With increasing immigration rates, educators are faced with the challenges of modifying their teaching styles to meet the needs of an increasingly multicultural student population (Capps et al.. 2005; Noguera, 2006). For school personnel, addressing the needs of immigrant children is a particularly daunting task, especially with increased budget cuts that have resulted in limited resources (Whittlesey-Jerome, 2012). School budget cuts have contributed to a decrease and in some school districts an elimination of social work supervisors, resulting in a lack of appropriate support and supervision for school social workers who may find themselves without adequate resources or knowledge to address the multifaceted needs of the diverse student body they serve (Noguera, 2006; Whittlesey-Jerome, 2012).

In addressing the educational gaps between immigrant and nativeborn children, it is important to recognize that the social, emotional, and familial needs of immigrant children are complex and vary from child to child. These needs undoubtedly affect the ability of these children to succeed in school and can contribute to both academic and behavioral challenges in the school setting. As a result, policies and practice models designed to alleviate inequalities in education must look at all children from a holistic perspective, acknowledging their mental health and social-emotional needs as well as their strengths.

Research on immigrant children's mental health has highlighted the importance of school personnel in reaching out and providing supportive services to these children (Aronowitz, 1984; Greenberg et al., 2003; McCarthy, 2007). However, despite the strong connection between the social-emotional challenges of acculturation and success in the academic setting, few school-based approaches have been designed to meet the particular needs of the immigrant child (McCarthy, 2007; Noguera, 2006). The purpose of this article is to contribute to the current knowledge base on school social work practice with immigrant students by discussing the applicability of integrative short-term treatment (ISTT; Goldstein & Noonan, 1999) as a practice model that can address some of the social-emotional challenges faced by immigrant children and to consider how this model can be utilized within a school context. Additionally, this article will illustrate how the different components of ISTT were utilized in a case illustration of school social work practice with a Mexican immigrant family.

Challenges Encountered by Immigrant Children in Schools

Immigrant students face numerous challenges in adapting to and succeeding in the school environment. In some cases, they may be entering a formal academic institution for the first time in their lives (Greenberg et al., 2003) or may have received minimal schooling in their native coun- try. Academic difficulties can have a profound impact on immigrant children's sense of self and of their role in the family system. Immigrant families often see education as a key factor in their children's ability to succeed in the United States (Fuligni, 1998; McCarthy, 2007; Rumbaut, 2005). Immigrant parents who may be struggling with poverty or working in low-paying jobs encourage children to be more successful than prior generations and view the school system as providing the tools necessary for advancement (Fuligni, 1998; Rumbaut, 2005). As a result, immigrant children who struggle academically may feel a sense of shame or of disappointing their families.

The challenge of learning a new language is an important task for students with limited English proficiency and can be a major barrier to their academic achievement, affecting their ability to excel in major subjects such as writing and reading comprehension (Rivera-Batiz, 2006). …

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