MTSS for Newcomer Youth
Graduate Research Assistant
Understanding Newcomer Youth and Their Challenges
Newcomer youth, a term encompassing immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented individuals, face unique challenges as they adapt to a new school and community. Many of them have experienced trauma and adversity even before their migration, with up to 67% of newcomers having encountered distressing situations. The migration journey can include a lack of basic needs, separation from family and friends, exposure to violence, and lengthy stays in detention centers. Even after resettlement, newcomer youth may struggle with the loss of their home, family, friends, acculturation difficulties, and unwelcoming communities and schools.
The Vital Role of Schools in Supporting Newcomer Youth
Schools play a vital role in the lives of newcomer youth. Regardless of their citizenship status, every child has the right to a free public education, making schools a natural and essential setting to welcome and support these students. Within schools, a team of trained adults is dedicated to addressing the holistic needs of students, including their social, emotional, and academic well-being. Moreover, schools can educate their communities about the strengths and needs of newcomer students, breaking down barriers like stigma and accessibility related to education and mental health services.
A Comprehensive, Multi-Tiered System of Support
To effectively address the mental health needs of newcomer youth, schools can implement a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) tailored to newcomers. This approach offers a structured framework that ranges from universal welcoming practices to early identification and targeted interventions for those in need. By adopting an MTSS framework, schools can ensure that all newcomer students receive the support required to thrive academically and emotionally. It promotes resilience and provides a safety net for those who have faced trauma and adversity, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and supportive learning environment for everyone. This approach includes:
Tier 1: Universal Welcoming and Well-being
At this level, schools create a welcoming, safe environment for all newcomer students. They promote positive school climate, provide psychological first aid, and prevent bullying. Collaboration occurs with various stakeholders, including school community members, mental health organizations, and families. The U.S. Department of Education provides guidance and examples of how schools are creating welcoming environments for newcomers across the nation.
Tier 2: Early Identification and Intervention
In Tier 2, schools identify and support newcomer students at risk of challenges during their transition. This stage may involve brief individual support, group interventions (e.g., Supporting Transition Resilience of Newcomer Groups, STRONG), and screening. Partnerships continue with school community members, mental health organizations, and families.
Tier 3: Intensive Support for Individual Student Needs
For newcomer students needing intensive assistance, schools provide personalized support. This may include individual and family treatment, along with trauma-specific interventions such as Trauma Systems Therapy for Refugees. Collaboration extends to school community members, mental health organizations, and families.
The MTSS framework aligns with a proactive and preventative model for addressing student needs. It considers the broader context of the school, community, and family partnerships. Adopting this system ensures that newcomer students receive the necessary support to succeed academically and emotionally in their new educational journey. Schools become a crucial source of support for their integration into the community and educational environment.