March 1, 2007 – Princeton, N.J.

Grants for 15 community programs nationwide awarded

Recognizing the unique mental health challenges facing growing numbers of immigrant and refugee children, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced a new national program to reduce emotional and behavioral health problems among school children in low-income, immigrant and refugee families. The program, Caring Across Communities: Addressing Mental Health Needs of Diverse Children and Youth, has awarded $4.5 million in grants to 15 projects in communities across the country that will work to bring school-connected mental health services to children in need, particularly those from immigrant and refugee families.

“These projects represent innovative, community-based partnerships focused on helping children from low-income, immigrant and refugee families get the mental health services that they need,” said Caring Across Communities National Program Office Director Julia Graham Lear, Ph.D. “They are close-to-the-ground projects with strong ties to their communities, and their aim is to make a difference in these children’s lives.”

Each project has been funded for three years, at up to $100,000 per year, for a maximum award of $300,000. Although the services provided through these projects will be available to all children at a given school, the emphasis will be on meeting the mental health needs of immigrant and refugee children. The National Program Office for Caring Across Communities is located at the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, Washington, D.C.

Recognition of the substantial mental health burdens borne by children – particularly poor, non-white children – is growing. An estimated 21 percent of U.S. children show symptoms of a mental disorder during the course of a year. Poverty increases the likelihood of certain mental health problems.

Children from immigrant and refugee families often face economic, social and personal hardships – poverty, separation from family members and challenges of acculturation – that may affect their mental health and overall well-being, but they are less likely than other children to get the services they need.

“These are special populations of children with mental health needs that are both unique and substantial,” said Wendy Yallowitz, program officer at RWJF. “Caring Across Communities will help these children make a healthy transition to life in the United States.”

For example, a refugee child from a war-torn country in West Africa may have seen or experienced torture or persecution. Prior to coming to the U.S., he probably lived in a crowded refugee camp, where he may have been separated from his parents or siblings. Once in the U.S., he must learn to settle in an unfamiliar community, sometimes in a household of people he doesn’t know.

More than 30 million immigrants and refugees live in the U.S. In 2002, children of immigrants totaled 13.5 million – representing more than 26 percent of low-income children under age 18 in this country.

RWJF has a special interest in giving immigrants and refugees the tools they need to improve and maintain their own health, through projects that address ways for improving the health of new residents by linking the effects of social factors – language skills, cultural differences, poor education and poverty – on health outcomes. Caring Across Communities reflects the Foundation’s commitment to this area.

The 15 new Caring Across Communities projects are:

  • Asian American Recovery Services
    San Jose, CA
    Population of Interest: Vietnamese
  • Children’s Hospital of Boston
    Boston, MA
    Population of Interest: Somali
  • Children’s Crisis Treatment Center
    Philadelphia, PA
    Populations of Interest:  West African (Liberia, Sierra  Leone, Guinea, Ivory  Coast)
  • Duke University
    Durham, NC
    Population of Interest: Mexican
  • Family Service Association of Bucks County
    Langhorne, PA
    Populations of Interest: Liberian, Indian, Caribbean, Mexican
  • Imperial County Office of Education
    El Centro, CA
    Population of Interest: Mexican
  • Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic
    Los Angeles, CA
    Population of Interest: Mexican, Central American
  • Los Angeles Unified School District
    Los Angeles, CA
    Populations of Interest: Mexican, El Salvadorian, Central American, Korean
  • Minneapolis Public Schools
    Minneapolis, MN
    Populations of Interest: Somali, Liberian, Oromo, Latino
  • New York University School of Medicine
    New York, NY
    Population of Interest: Afro-Caribbean
  • Portland Public Schools
    Portland, ME
    Populations of Interest: Acholi, Arabic, Khmer, Nuer, Serbo-Croation, Somali, Vietnamese
  • Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Population of Interest: Mexican migrant workers
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Chapel Hill, NC.
    Population of Interest: Mexican
  • The Village Family Service Center
    Fargo, ND
    Populations of Interest: Somali, Sudanese, Bosnian, Liberian
  • World Relief – Chicago
    Chicago, IL
    Populations of Interest: Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, Somali, Bosnian, Liberian, Mexican


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools (CHHCS) is a nonpartisan policy and program resource center located at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. CHHCS builds on a 20-year history of testing strategies to strengthen health care delivery systems for children and adolescents. For the past decade, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Center staff and consultants have worked with institutional leaders, state officials and clinical providers to maximize outcomes for children through more effective health programming in schools.

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