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West African Refugee Assistance Program (Tamaa) School Training Children’s Crisis Treatment Center (CcTC), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

About our project:

A significant number of West African refugee children and their families from the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea have resettled in Southwest Philadelphia, a highly stressed community within the City listed as one of the Untied States’ “Hot Zones” for violence.  Prior to their arrival in Southwest Philadelphia, many of the refugees experienced significant war- and displacement-related trauma, and once settled in Southwest Philadelphia, many struggle with serious acculturation challenges.  In 2002, Children’s Crisis Treatment Center (CcTC) launched Tamaa, a school- and community-based mental health and social service program designed to meet the needs of this specialized population.  The Tamaa Program includes trauma- and grief-focused therapy groups, school trainings, a parent/caregiver education and support group, case management services, and community engagement activities for West African children and their families, as well as the larger Southwest Philadelphia community.  The School Training component, which is a critical part of the overall success of the Tamaa Program, is the focus of CcTC’s Caring Across Communities (CAC) funded project.

With the collaboration of partners, including the African Cultural Alliance of North America (ACANA), the South Region of the School District of Philadelphia, Patterson Elementary School, Morton Elementary School, and expert trainers from various organizations (Good Shepherd Mediation Program, Temple University, Multicultural Community Family Services, and Carson Valley Children’s Aid), CcTC has developed, implemented, and evaluated a multi-session curriculum (7-8 trainings) that are conducted for school staff (teachers, counselors, administrators, and support staff) at a given school over the course of an academic year.  Each year the trainings are tailored and carried out at a different school that has a high concentration of West African students. For more information, view our poster.

Demographic data:


Our work:

The training curriculum covers topics related to general child trauma, refugee trauma and acculturative struggles, history and culture of specific West African countries, West African parent/caregiver engagement, and culturally informed school-based interventions.  The project aims to improve schools’ understanding and treatment of their West African students and increase the West African students’ access to needed services by 1) increasing school staff knowledge about West African culture and refugee issues, 2) facilitating referrals for West African students to mental health services, 3) educating teachers about cultural awareness and how to implement conflict resolution strategies in the classroom, and 4) promoting greater parent/caregiver involvement in schools.  Attendees are assessed at the end of each training session to evaluate how much information has been acquired and how well the expert presenter has met his/her training objectives.

During CcTC’s CAC project funding, training has been offered thus far at two Southwest Philadelphia schools, Morton Elementary and Patterson Elementary Schools.  Participation in these school trainings has increased steadily throughout the year, ranging from 17 to 69 participants in each training session. During the 2007/2008 academic year, over 50 unduplicated school staff participated in at least one or more of the trainings.

The Tamaa School Training project staff will produce a manual that will delineate how other communities throughout the Country can develop and conduct a school-based trainings to support students from different countries/cultures, particularly refugees who have experienced war-related trauma and who are struggling with acculturation, so that the students can have a more successful school experience and receive any needed services and supports.

Our Partners:

• Children’s Crisis Treatment Center
• Philadelphia School District (South Region)
• Patterson Elementary School
• Morton Elementary School
• African Cultural Alliance of North America (ACANA)

What we are learning:

• Key Informant Interview Report Summary
• Training Evaluation Form
• Sample School Training Curriculum

New Resources Available:

For those working with war traumatized students including clinicians, teachers, and other school personnel…

Tamaa Guidebook
West African Refugee Assistance Program (Tamaa) School Trainings Manual
For more information about this project, contact Anne Holland at