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More Help for Refugee Children in MI Schools

September 13, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - The new school year comes with a host of challenges for the many refugee children who now call Michigan home. That's where Lutheran Social Services of Michigan steps in, to help ease the transition for these kids and their families. And its Refugee School Impact Program is expanding to serve families in Kent and Ingham counties, in addition to Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, with language assistance, cultural awareness training and support groups.

Jessica Cotton, senior school specialist with the program, says one challenge is that refugee children often have to perform tasks that are well beyond their chronological age.

"Because the parents don't have as good English language as they do, the children often are put into a place where they have to be an authority figure, in situations where they shouldn't have to be."

Last year, the program served more than 250 families. Most of those in the metro Detroit area are from Iraq, but Cotton says expanding the program means serving families from Burma, South America and Africa.

She says the expansion is much needed, given the number of refugees who continue to make their way to Michigan.

"The families are not going to stop coming. I mean, their country is having a struggle, So, if they're going to be here, it's our job to make sure that they are successful."

The program is funded by a grant from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Information on the Refugee School Impact Program is at www.lssm.org

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI