Creative Social Worker

Undocumented Youth and Mental Health

UCLA is one of the few California MSW programs that offers a specific macro concentration (I cross over so I am essentially “mezzo”).  Macro social workers focus on things like program development, advocacy, creating/running non-profits, policy, politics, community organizing, etc.

During our first year everyone is required to enroll in a 2-part macro class that features a community project.  My class’ project was to partner with the UCLA Labor Center to help them develop a mental health program for undocumented youth.  We started by reviewing the literature to determine the scope of the issue and then gathered our own data, through surveys and focus groups of undocumented students, to get information about their experiences and mental health needs.  Through this data we were also able to get invaluable feedback on everything, from what the structure of the program should be and how to market it, to what it should be called.  From there our class created a policy brief that was presented at a conference and then at an event for possible funders and host-sites.  The program was funded and is now the CIRCLE Project which is being piloted at multiple campus and community locations.  At the end of the class, our work was continued by the UCLA LAbor Center and the new first year MSW class.  Today I attended a workshop they presented that was created for NASW (and maybe DMH as well?) titled “Undocumented Youth and Mental Health.”  It was a great training and it was nice to get an update on what is going on with the project.  

"Collective of Immigrant Resilience through Community Led Empowerment (CIRCLE) is a project that provides a space for immigrant youth to address and cope with the unique experiences of growing up undocumented and continuing to be undocumented in a time of highly vocal anti-immigrant sentiment. The project’s mission is to promote communal support, collective healing and self-empowerment where immigrant youth can discuss their ongoing stressors and successes, and make professional referrals when necessary. Community Talking Circles bring immigrant youth together to discuss their experiences as undocumented individuals and to support each other in the process."

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