Working With Latino Immigrant Families in Schools
Abstract and Keywords
Latino immigrant families and their students come with unique cultural and linguistic needs. Working effectively with Latino immigrants in schools is a challenge for social workers. Latino immigrant families represent a variety of racial, ethnic, historical, immigrant, gender, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. While scholars are able to identify aspects of culture and cultural values, their influence on education and how to integrate these values into intervention and prevention programs, or direct services, is still in need of further research. This article offers a portrait of the Latino immigrant population in the United States, discusses the definitions associated with the population, provides some considerations for social workers, and discusses interventions or preventions specific to Latino immigrant students that also include families.
Referred to as Hispanic by the U.S. Census Bureau, currently 56.6 million Americans identify as Latino in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). Of the 56.6 million Latinos, 69.5% of all Latino households have children under 18 years of age (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). Latinos constitute 17.6% of total U.S. population and are the largest ethnic minority group (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016), despite the slowing overall population annual growth rate that now places Latinos behind Asians (Stepler & Lopez, 2016). The Latino population is projected to grow to 119 million by the year 2060 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016), and although the focus of this article is on immigrants, the main driver of the population is U.S. born (Stepler & Lopez, 2016). Approximately 63.4% of the total Latino population in the United States is of Mexican background followed by Puerto Rican (9.5%), Salvadoran (3.8%), and Cuban (3.7%). Other Latinos include Dominican (3.3%), Guatemalan (2.4%), and multiple groups from Central and South America (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016) including, but not limited to, Columbia, Honduras, Ecuador, and Peru (Stepler & Lopez, 2016).
Latinos currently make up 32% of the total U.S. foreign-born population (Lopez & Radford, 2015). Notably, the Mexican-origin population accounted for two-thirds (64.1%) of the total increase in the U.S. Latino population (Lopez, 2015), and 27.7% of the total foreign-born population. Subsequently, 7 in 10 of all Latino children are of Mexican origin, followed by Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Dominican, Cuban, and Central and South American children (Murphey, Guzman, & Torres, 2014). While the Mexican-origin population largely represents the majority of Latinos and foreign-born Latinos, social work professionals must be aware of the heterogeneity of the population and aware of their distinct social and cultural needs. Furthermore, social work professionals should be aware that not all Latinos are foreign born, and that some families are mixed status of foreign born and U.S. born.
The states with the largest Latino populations (over 1 million) are “Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Texas” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016); and “California (15 million), Texas (10.4 million), Florida (4.8 million), New York (3.7 million) and Illinois (2.2 million)” (Stepler & Lopez, 2016) are home to the largest Latino populations. Of the 15 million Latinos that reside in California, 4.9 million of those Latinos reside in the Los Angeles metropolitan area (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). More than half of the Latino population resides in a major metropolitan area, and foreign-born majority areas throughout the United States range from both non-metropolitan and metropolitan areas (Stepler & Lopez, 2016). Thus, while Latino enclaves exist in multiple states and non-metropolitan and metropolitan areas, only some of these areas are highly concentrated with the foreign-born population. For this reason, social workers need to be aware of these differences when preparing to work with Latino families and communities.
Defining Latino-Hispanic Immigrants
The Hispanic-Latino debate is unsettled. In some occasions, professionals use the two ethonyms interchangeably, while other times a distinct difference clearly identifies whom, when, and how someone is a Latino or Hispanic. Around a decade ago, the term Latinx surfaced in challenge of cultural and social norms, increasing in popularity. Others forgo the ethonyms Hispanic, Latino, and Latinx altogether and identify from their country of origin (e.g., Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, etc.). Professionals seeking to work with Latinos should be aware of the subtle differences and understand their origin. The term Hispanic surfaced as a buzzword in the United States in the 1970s by then Department of Health, Education, and Welfare official Grace Flores-Hughes (Flores-Hughes, 2006). Flores-Hughes urged other officials to use the term Hispanic to exclusively describe all persons with a traceable ancestry to Spain (including Spanish), mostly individuals that have Spanish surnames (Flores-Hughes, 2006). Thus the term made its first official appearance on the 1980 U.S. Census and has been used by the government ever since.
Second, the term Latino also surfaced at the same time as the term Hispanic. The term Latino gained acceptance by the government in 1997 (Office of Management and Budget, 1997). Today, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget uses the term Hispanic or Latino to identify anyone of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American origin. The term Hispanic or Latino is inclusive of all race categories and used to describe all persons with a traceable origin to a country in Latin America. Some choose to use the ethonym to encompass all persons from Latin America including Brazil. However, persons from Brazil do not fit the OMB definition of Hispanic or Latino because they do not share the Spanish-speaking origins. Nevertheless, the government will recognize persons from Brazil as Hispanic or Latino if they self-identify as such (Passel & Taylor, 2009). Therefore, if students with traceable origins from Brazil also identify as Latino, social workers should respect and honor their decision to self-identify as Latino. Given this understanding, Latinos immigrant families represent a variety of cultural, immigration, racial, ethnic, and linguistically diverse backgrounds (Spanish, English, Portuguese, and Native Languages) (Arredondo & Santiago-Rivera, 2000).
Lastly, the term Latinx identifies persons of Latino origin in a gender-neutral way (Oxford Dictionary). While not a term officially recognized by the U.S. government, it is a term that has gained popularity by activists and scholars. Although it is unclear whether or not Latino immigrants prefer one term over the other, professionals seeking to work with this community should be aware of the different terms. It is critical for the social work professional working with this population to be sensitive to each individual preference for self-identifying, and to be prepared to clarify what the different ethonyms mean when prompted.
The definition of immigrant is any person that moves from one country to another to reside there permanently (Oxford Dictionary). For professionals seeking to work with Latino immigrant families, it is important to know and understand the different classifications of immigrant statuses. The Department of Homeland Security defines an immigrant as a permanent resident alien, or a person that may permanently reside in the United States (Department of Homeland Security). The Immigration and Nationality Act defines all other persons that have obtained legal permission to visit or work or seek refuge or asylum in the United States, while not to permanently reside in the United States, as legal immigrants (USCIS, 2013). The U.S. government recognizes all other immigrants as unauthorized residents.
Latino immigrant families may be authorized, unauthorized, or of mixed documentation status. The Pew Hispanic Center (Passel & Cohn, 2009) reported over 47% of all households with an unauthorized adult as also residing with children, and over 73% of those children are U.S. citizens. Therefore, whereas one parent is an authorized resident, the other parent may not have authorization to reside in the United States, and the children may be U.S. citizens or of mixed status. Multiple variations of immigration status in families exist and those variations may affect the families in different ways, particularly if deportation occurs (Zayas, 2015). Social workers should be aware that Latino immigrant families could be of mixed status or all the same documentation status without assuming the former or the latter. Thus, depending on their composition, deportation may or may not be a risk factor. However, Latino students may experience discrimination or bullying from others in school related to immigration policies or documentation status regardless of their actual status (Lai & Tov, 2004; Pratt-Johnson, 2015; Storlie & Jach, 2012). Social work professionals can mitigate the challenges that Latino immigrant students and families may experience by making efforts to bring Latino community leaders to provide hope, engaging in advocacy, and taking initiative to train on how to respond to these concerns (Storlie & Toomey, 2016).
If family members are deported, the remaining family members can suffer serious health and mental health consequences, in addition to financial losses (Zayas, 2015). Immigration policies may negatively affect the mental health of Latino families, and be linked to serious health consequences (Hatzenbuehler et al., 2017). Families of mixed authorization status may live in constant fear and this fear can cause undue stress that impedes optimal functioning (Zayas, 2015). Following deportation, remaining family members may isolate themselves and live in fear even from known professionals (Capps, Castaneda, Chaudry, & Santos, 2007). Thus, social work professionals should be aware of the differences in status to help connect the families with appropriate resources, and address any concerns that may arise in accessing these services. Furthermore, social workers should be sensitive and prepared to provide mental health support to families if the need arises.
According to the Department of Education (2013), only 40% of Latino students attend preschool and early intervention programs compared to 60% of non-Latino White students and nearly 70% of African American students. In fact, Latino students have experienced educational disparities in early education programs since the beginning of their inception (Murphey, Madill, & Guzman, 2017). Long-term studies indicate that high school completion increases when students attend preschool programs and early intervention programs (Raikes & Cohen, 2005). Research indicates a positive relationship between preschool and early intervention programs to greater preparation for academic success (Loeb, Fuller, Kagan, & Carrol, 2004; National Research Council, 1998). While the completion of preschool and early intervention programs are linked to better educational outcomes, only 3 in 10 Latino four-year-olds are enrolled (Department of Education, 2013). Non-English speaking Latino immigrant families face multiple barriers to pre-kindergarten educational program enrollment including limited social capital, and economic and educational resources (Schneider, Martinez, & Owens, 2006). Furthermore, recent immigrants are more likely to live in economically disadvantaged areas where educational opportunities are limited (Schneider et al., 2006). Social workers placed with Latino immigrant communities should consider strategies to increase the integration of families, and adapt prevention and outreach efforts to increase enrollment to these programs.
Latino elementary school students also face critical barriers to educational success. Overall, Latino students disproportionately experience the intersectionality of factors including poverty, language barriers, lack or access to resources, food, and adequate housing (Gandara, 2015). According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015), Latino children scored significantly lower in math, reading, and science tests compared to their White counterparts. Regardless of socioeconomic background, Latino boys and girls still score lower on standardized tests compared to White students and Asian students, (Gandara, 2015). However, Latino boys performed slightly lower compared to Latina girls the same age (NCES, 2015). Consequently, Latina students are overrepresented in special education and IEP plans (Gandara, 2015). Compounding the issue, Latino students’ experiences of discrimination and prejudice negatively impact educational learning outcomes and academic success (Adair, 2015).
The educational portrait of Latino students does not improve in middle or high school. For example, Latina student’s score significantly lower compared to White students and Asian students (M. Lopez, 2009). While they outperform Latino male students of the same age, they fall behind in reading, math, science, and English compared to other ethnic counterparts (Gandara, 2015). In the case of Latino immigrant students, immigrants experience higher dropout rates compared to American-born Latino students (Lopez, 2009). English language learners experience the greatest dropout rates and lower academic outcomes, even when controlling for socioeconomic status (Nesman, 2007). Difficulties with language acquisition, communication barriers between parent and teacher, and the lack of culturally responsive teaching methods (Nesman, 2007) may contribute to the educational disparity among Latino immigrant students. Before high school is over, 12% of all Latino students drop out, and Latinos experience greater dropout rates overall than other ethnic groups (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014). Further complicating the issue, Latino male high school students are three times more likely to face incarceration compared to White counterparts for similar crimes (Wald & Losen, 2003). Inequalities in the public school system (Wald & Losen, 2003), and familial expectations to share economic responsibilities may contribute to the decision to drop out of high school (Alvarez de Davila, Michaels, Hurtado, Roldan, & Duran-Graybow, 2016), however, further research is needed to understand the phenomena.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (October current population survey, 2014), 36% of Latinas surveyed reported college enrollment, compared to 30% of males reporting college enrollment. A 2014 national survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, (M. Lopez, 2009) of Latino high school students, indicated that 9 out of 10 students valued obtaining a college education, but only 48% planned to follow through. The majority of these students (75%) reported familial obligations as the main factor behind their decision to drop out of college or not attend at all. Among other factors, difficulty with the English language and not enjoying school or feeling that school was not needed to excel in the career they planned on pursuing were also cited as contributing to the decision to drop out or not attend (M. Lopez, 2009). Of those Latino students who graduate high school, only 15% will go on to receive a bachelor’s degree or greater (Krogstad, 2016). Latina graduation rates in associates degree programs are progressively increasing, but only 19% will graduate with a four-year college degree from a traditional university (Gandara, 2015). Nevertheless, Latinas continue to hold the lowest number of graduate degrees compared to other ethnic groups where only 4% of Latinas go on to obtain a graduate degree (Gandara, 2015). Social workers should be prepared to engage in preventative efforts with both Latino/a students, particularly immigrants, in order to close the educational disparities gap faced by this population.
For social workers working with Latino immigrant students that are interested in attending college or the university, it is especially important for them to be familiar with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. Created in 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allowed for individuals who arrived to the United States as children, and met established criteria, to request deferred action for a period of two years (subject to renewal) (USCIS, 2016). Therefore, DACA may be a pathway to pursuing and completing a higher education for Latino immigrant students that (1) are classified as unauthorized residents; (2) arrived to the United States before the age of 16; and (3) are currently enrolled in school. Furthermore, a deferred action against these individuals may allow them additional time to pursue a pathway toward legal citizenship in the United States. In 2014, the U.S. government announced changes for the expansion of DACA that would expand the pool of eligibility for individuals. In 2016, however, a federal court order prevented any further expansion (USCIS, 2016). Professionals working with Latino families in schools should be knowledgeable about DACA to help students aspiring to attend college upon graduation.
Considerations for Working With Latino Families
While Latinos may speak a variety of languages, over 40 million or 72.9% of all Latinos over the age of five reported speaking Spanish at home (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). Subsequently, Spanish is also the most widely spoken foreign language in the United States (Gonzalez-Barrera & Lopez, 2013). Of those that speak Spanish, over 80% report fluency of the language (Gonzalez-Barrera & Lopez, 2013), however, English proficiency has experienced a steady increase (88%) in younger Latinos (5–17 years of age) (Krogstad, 2016). However, English proficiency among older Latinos is comparatively lower to younger Latinos (Krogstad, 2016). Thus, professionals working with Latino immigrant families may encounter challenges related to language barriers. For this reason, it is important for professionals to provide families with linguistically appropriate resources and services.
The lack of bilingual services and programs in schools presents a unique challenge for Spanish-speaking Latino immigrant families. The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 sought to address the needs of limited English speakers and their families. Yet, Latino students that are also language minorities continue to experience lower literacy outcomes (Kena et al., 2015). The misplacement of language minorities in Special Education in place of Bilingual Education complicates the experience of Latino immigrant students and families (Orosco & Klingner, 2010; Sullivan, 2011). The Response to Intervention (RTI) and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) three-tiered models are garnering greater support in school systems for their ability to provide targeted interventions to students that are experiencing challenges in the school system (Hughes & Dexter, 2011; Robles, Detlaff, & Fong, 2015). While there are few culturally sensitive evidence-based interventions for Latino immigrant students and their families, the RTI model does provide the structural support to facilitate student academic success (Osher et al., 2004; Robles et al., 2015).
Nevertheless, the cultural and linguistic differences of Latino immigrant students should be thoroughly considered and discussed throughout the transition of a student in an RTI framework before determining eligibility for a Special Education program (Klingner et al., 2005). Some practices that may aid in reducing the amount of referrals of Latino immigrant students to Special Education include (1) culturally responsive education, (2) professional development in cultural responsive practices, (3) the development of greater culturally responsive evidence-based educational practices, and (4) culturally responsive early intervention (Klingner et al., 2005). Given these suggestions, a culturally responsive education would precede a referral to RTI, and therefore, the amount of referrals to RTI reduce (Klingner et al., 2005). Hence, while social workers are urged to adapt a culturally responsive RTI (Robles et al., 2015), social workers should also advocate for a culturally responsive educational system if working with culturally and linguistically diverse immigrant students.
Cultural belief systems and values may be an integral part of Latino immigrant families. As previously stated, Latino immigrant families may be of mixed status, and therefore, values may differ among family members. For example, Latino immigrant adolescents may feel the pressure to develop an identity consistent with their parent’s cultural belief systems and values, and at the same time fit into mainstream culture (Schwartz, Montgomery, & Briones, 2006). NASW Cultural Competence Standards support social work professionals to integrate cultural values into practice with Latino immigrant families. While social workers should not apply cultural values to practice with all Latino families, they should be aware of the values that researchers identify and seek to assess the values that apply to the family of practice.
A review of the literature on Latinos in schools revealed authors on the topic most widely discussed these 7 cultural values: (1) confianza (Negroni-Rodriguez & Morales, 2001); (2) dignidad (Andres-Hyman et al., 2006; Hill & Torres, 2010; Lopez & Donovan, 2009); (3) educacion (Reese, Balzano, Gallimore, & Goldenberg, 1995); (4) familismo (Smokowski et al., 2008); (5) fatalism (Sciarra & Whitson, 2007); (6) ganas (Auerbach, 2006); and (7) religiosity (Jehynes, 2002). The literature emphasizes the importance of these values, and professionals are strongly encouraged to include them in practice. However, it is unclear which of these values takes precedence. Thus, social workers expecting to work with Latinos in schools should be familiar with these cultural values and consider how they can collectively best shape practice behaviors. While many of the values listed in the literature need greater investigation, a basic understanding of the values can potentially enhance the relationship between the social worker and Latino immigrant family. To facilitate the understanding of these values, this section provides a definition of each value and a discussion of recommendations for practice.
The simplest definition of confianza is trust (Gardella, Candales, & Ricardo-Rivera, 2005; Gonzales et al., 1995), but confianza in the context of schools is multifaceted. Confianza may be trust in the schools, educators and professionals, and quite possibly the American Dream (Zentella, 2005). As a social work professional working with Latino immigrant families in schools, it is imperative to establish a level of confianza with the family while delivering services. For families, it may be that confianza is established when the comfort of being able to ask difficult questions is achieved (Morales-Campos, Markham, Peskin, & Fernandez, 2013). At the same time, it may be that confianza in the school system needs to be established and with the notion that the American Dream is achievable. One approach to fostering confianza is to incorporate platicas (talks) between the school system and students and families (Freire & Valdez, 2017). While the direct translation of platica is talk, platicas are a Latino cultural approach to exchanging information that reduces the hierarchical relationship between professionals and families (Freire & Valdez, 2017; Godinez, 2006; De la Torre, 2008). By engaging Latino immigrant families in platicas on school-related issues or topics, the opportunity to foster confianza may increase. Researchers should seek to conduct more investigations toward understanding confianza and the strategies that will increase confianza.
In line with confianza, dignidad, or dignity, is the expectation that the interactions between the family and professional honor the dignity of the other regardless of their educational attainment or cultural background (Andres-Hyman et al., 2006; Hill & Torres, 2010; Lopez & Donovan, 2009). To show an honor for the dignidad of the Latino family, some schools engage family members in educational nights to play games (Lopez & Donovan, 2009). Dignity in an individualistic conceptualization seeks to preserve honor from individual to individual; however, dignidad from a Latino orientation expands the concept to include the family and community (Gallardo & Kingdon, 2017). While dignidad is an important cultural value, the literature does not offer many concrete examples of how to enhance the value within the relationship. Thus, social workers should seek to develop and evaluate strategies oriented toward integrating dignidad in practice with Latino immigrant families.
Educacion is defined as being well mannered and behaved morally and socially (Auerbach, 2006), and is a broader definition of the American ideal of being well educated (Hill & Torres, 2010). Educacion occurs at the family and community levels and reflects the child’s ability to respond in socially acceptable ways that reflect the successful inculcation of good moral and social values (Auerbach, 2006). Given this understanding, social workers must work around this difference in conveying the importance of education. Along those lines, it is important to understand the importance of family and the academic term familismo. Familismo, defined as a social belief system where individuals within a family act within the best interest of the family and not the individual (Desmond & Turley, 2009). Research on how familismo influences educational outcomes is inconclusive (Desmond & Turley, 2009). Social workers should understand that familismo is a term to describe the observations made of the Latino family unit, but is not an actual word that is used in the Spanish language. Research continues to work toward how familismo influences educational outcomes and how to integrate familismo into interventions.
Other important cultural values to understand as they relate to education include fatalism, ganas, and religiosity. Fatalismo is the belief that events are outside of one’s control that serve as a deterrent to healthy behaviors (Abraída-Lanza et al., 2007; Sciarra & Whitson, 2007). For education, fatalismo may mean that Latino immigrant families believe higher education to be outside of their control and the American Dream unachievable. As with familismo, the term fatalismso is not a word in the Spanish language, but a coin termed by academics to describe their observations of Latinos. Ganas, defined as the will to achieve (Auerbach, 2006; Hill & Torres, 2010), is especially important in helping Latino immigrants through the educational system. Lastly, religiosity is defined as a strong religious belief or feeling, and is positively associated with better educational outcomes (Jehynes, 2002). While all social workers should consider each Latino immigrant family as a special unit, a basic understanding of these cultural values will help in effectively practicing with students.
Interventions for Latino Immigrant Families in Schools
Evidence-based school interventions for Latino immigrant families need development and evaluation to assist in closing the many educational disparity gaps. Despite the fact that Latino immigrant students experience greater educational disparities, few interventions exist that address the specific needs of Latino immigrant students and families. Of those that do exist, the interventions aim to address outcomes related to problem behaviors, family integration (Bal & Perzigian, 2013), or mental health issues. For example, researchers developed and evaluated a school-based mental health program for Latino immigrant students that experienced trauma-related mental health problems (Kataoka et al., 2003). The Mental Health for Immigrant Program (MHIP) included a linguistically adapted, manually guided group cognitive behavioral therapy; and delivered the sessions with trained bilingual, bicultural social workers (Kataoka et al., 2003). Whereas the group therapy focused on the students’ needs, parents and teachers also received education on trauma-related mental health issues. The Familias Unidas program (Pantin et al., 2003), like the MHIP, also included both parents and students in addressing programmatic outcomes. Results from the Familias Unidas program demonstrated increased parental involvement and a reduction in adolescent problem behaviors after intervention (Pantin et al., 2003). Other Familias Unidas programs target sexual risky behaviors and substance abuse among all Latino youth.
Whereas students were the focus of the program in the MHIP, the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), a program focused on immigrant integration to the education system, focused on the parents of immigrant students (Chrispeels & Rivero, 2001). PIQUE engaged parents in educational seminars oriented toward increasing their knowledge on how the education system works, how to support their students, how to collaborate with teachers, and how to prepare their students for the university setting. The PIQE program offered multiple options for parents to engage in classes at various times, thereby, accommodating for their differing schedules (Chrispeels & Rivero, 2001). Although the PIQE model needs further evaluation, qualitative data suggests that the parents felt more knowledgeable, and of greater importance in assisting their students (Chrispeels & Rivero, 2001). However, a meta-analysis of the social-emotional learning program supports SEL as an evidence-based intervention for helping students successfully transition (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011). Researchers evaluated a cultural adaptation of the social-emotional learning program (SEL) for Latino immigrant adolescents aimed at improving integration (Castro-Olivo & Merrell, 2012). The evaluation of the program indicated favorable improvements in social emotional learning and garnered support from the students (Castro-Olivo & Merrell, 2012).
Another program also focused on Latino immigrant parental education is the Child Parent Relationship Therapy program (CPRT), whereas the PIQUE and SEL programs focused on integration, the CPRT sought to improve the behavioral outcomes of students by teaching the parents therapy-based techniques for dealing with problematic behavior (Ceballos & Bratton, 2010). Findings from the CPRT program indicate effectiveness of decreasing parent-child stress and in reducing problem behaviors (Chrispeels & Rivero, 2001). The CPRT findings, as well as those of the other programs, indicate that efforts aimed at improving outcomes for Latino immigrants are effective and merit further development. The need to further develop and evaluate other programs aimed at improving outcomes for Latino immigrant students and families is imperative to the efforts to close the educational disparities gap.
Working effectively with Latino immigrants in schools is a daunting task for a variety of reasons discussed in this article. Social workers in schools with Latino immigrants must face the unique challenge of working with a population that is complex, and at risk for a variety of negative educational outcomes. The complexity of the Latino immigrant identity (Santiago & Arredondo, 2002), the need for further research in understanding how cultural values influence educational outcomes, and the dearth of evidenced-based interventions all contribute to the challenges of working with Latino immigrant families in schools.
Latino immigrants are at serious disadvantage in the school system. Faced with little to no resources available, difficulties in transitioning, and a historically negative reception of Latino immigrants in general (Santiago-Rivera, Arredondo, & Gallardo-Cooper, 2002), a negative and fatalistic attitude on education is understandable. Strides in understanding the difficulties associated with Latino immigrant status highlight the need for exploring the unique challenges among the sub-ethnic groups. Each sub-ethnic group experiences immigration differently, and each individual within those sub-ethnic groups holds a unique immigration experience and needs. Thus, while some students need trauma-related programs, it may not be necessary for others. To address the complexity of needs for Latino immigrants, school social workers must prepare to spend time within the community to both gather information and garner support and establish confianza. The beginning of article emphasizes that Latino immigrant communities live in a variety of states, and urban and rural areas. However, while this data is valuable for increasing knowledge on the likelihood of where Latino immigrant communities are established, it does not substitute the efforts (or the benefits gained by) to understand the community and its members.
Early literature on Latino immigrants reflected the initial understanding of cultural values. Researchers must seek to understand how those values influence educational outcomes, and how to integrate the protective qualities of cultural values into prevention and intervention programs. The Familias Unidas (Pantin et al., 2003) and the SEL (Castro-Olivo & Merrell, 2012) both culturally adapted their programs with the ecological validity framework, a cultural adaptation framework (Bernal, Bonilla, & Bellido, 1995; Bronfenbrenner, 1989). While the MHIP did not specify cultural adaptation, the program is linguistically appropriate and included bilingual and bicultural professionals (Kataoka et al., 2003). Each of these programs provided evidence that supports the effectiveness of incorporating cultural elements to the prevention or intervention. While researchers continue to develop and evaluate school-based programs for Latino immigrants, social workers in the front line should seek to gain training that may provide helpful strategies for adapting current evidence-based practices.
In closing, the state of the literature on working with Latino immigrants in schools is at a crux where researchers must strive to advance the knowledge of how to help reduce the educational disparities of Latino immigrant students. Social workers providing direct services with Latino immigrant families must continue to work to raise awareness of the unique issues faced by the population. The opportunity to create novel approaches to addressing the unique needs of Latino immigrant families in schools abounds, and social workers must rise to the challenge to address the educational disparities gaps.
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