Project SHIFA

Project SHIFA (Supporting the Health of Immigrant Families and Adolescents)

Somali refugees are one of the largest groups of refugees in the United States. Somali youth have often experienced horrific violence and loss in their home country, and many continue to face neighborhood violence and significant resettlement stress in their U.S. communities. While many Somali youth struggle with trauma-related symptoms, cultural and linguistic barriers have led to very few receiving mental health services. A team from Children’s Hospital Center for Refugee Trauma and Resilience, has adapted TST for refugees and is successfully engaging and caring for Somali youth in a school setting.Project SHIFA is a model for how community partnerships, school-based care, and cultural expertise can be integrated with TST to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable and underserved youth in our communities.

Project SHIFA consists of 3 components of prevention and intervention:

  1. parent outreach focused on anti-stigma and psycho-education,
  2. school-based groups for students and trainings for teachers and
  3. direct intervention for youth using an empirically-supported model of treatment, Trauma Systems Therapy.

Under the leadership of our partner The Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center, parent outreach reduces stigma of mental health within the Somali community through providing education about how stress and mental health problems effect children’s functioning and ability to learn and how parents are critical partners in promoting their children’s health.

Within the school, early intervention groups are conducted to help Somali students with acculturation and socialization. These groups also serve to help identify youth who are in need of more intensive mental health services. Teacher trainings and consultation further minimize acculturative stress within the school setting and help teachers understand how learning and behavior may be affected by trauma and stress. Finally, those students who demonstrate significant mental health needs receive school- and community-based care under the Trauma Systems Therapy (TST) model. TST is a phase-based model of care that builds a child’s emotional regulation skills while simultaneously targeting and reducing social environmental stressors that contribute to a child’s emotional dysregulation. TST incorporates home-based care, school-based therapy, and legal advocacy to achieve these goals.