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Screening and Assessment

When assessing trauma and mental health symptoms in refugee children, providers should:

  • Attend to engagement and cultural considerations as important first steps.
  • When assessing a child’s history, ask about the child’s background, past school experience, trauma history, and current stressors (including current trauma exposure such as community violence).
  • Ask about specific behaviors (e.g., isolating or not spending time with others, not enjoying or participating in activities, frequent outbursts) that might be concerning for caregivers; this may be a culturally appropriate way to discuss mental health symptoms.
  • Ask about—and respect the caregiver's or child’s interpretation of—the symptoms and concerns. You might ask, “Why do you think you are/your child is behaving this way?” or “You know your child best. Do you have any concerns?”
  • Try to assess if symptoms are culturally specific ways to express mental health distress. You might simply ask, “Do you know anyone else who has these same problems?”
  • Pay attention to the social and environmental stressors in the child’s life and how these may contribute to the symptoms described.
  • Children with school problems may have learning or cognitive differences/disabilities that are impeding his or her progress. While difficult to assess, due to differences in culture, language, and school exposure, these are important to identify.

Screening and Assessment Resources

Refugee Services Core Stressor Assessment Tool. Provides users with information about four core stressors that refugees commonly face and guides them through an assessment of a particular youth or family's needs. Based on the assessment, tailored recommendations for resources and interventions are generated through this web-based resource developed by the Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center.

Refugee Standardized Measures. Includes a list of mental health measures that have been translated and used with some of the refugee groups currently being resettled at the highest rates in the US. For some of these measures, additional Information regarding reliability and validity is available in the Measure Reviews Database.