Understanding the Social-Emotional Well Being of Undocumented Latino Children in the United States

By Kimberly Harrison, Cherie Blanchat and Richard Harrison.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Political, social, and economic implications related to poor outcomes for undocumented Latino children in the United States highlight an issue of social justice that should be addressed. A current lack of research related to this population promotes uncertainty in understanding how documentation status, reduced access to public resources, and poor educational performance impact the social-emotional well being of these children.

For example, in 2005 Latinos were the largest minority group and had the highest high school dropout rate of any other groups in the United States. Despite dismal educational outcomes, reliable and valid data pertaining to this group is difficult to collect due to fears of confidentiality and deportation among the undocumented Latino population. However, public school environments emerge as potential sites for future research because of educational safeguards that allow undocumented children the right to attend school.

A study conducted by this researcher in 2007 in an urban middle school in Kansas with recently immigrated Latino students attempted to address these issues. Information regarding the study design, ethical considerations, and barriers to implementation will be shared. As intense public scrutiny and dismal outcomes for undocumented Latino children continue to grow, developing a better understanding of their social-emotional well being is critical in creating positive interventions and ameliorating this significant social justice issue.

Keywords: Undocumented Latino Children, Educational Environments, Research Strategies, Social-Emotional Well Being, Collaborative Research

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp.89-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.877MB).

Dr. Kimberly Harrison

Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas, USA

Dr. Kimberly Harrison is an associate professor in the Department of Social Work and the current Masters of Social Work (MSW) Program Director at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. Dr. Harrison received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 1987, her Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1993, and her Ph.D. in Special Education Policy Integration in 2003, all from the University of Kansas. Prior to becoming an associate professor, Dr. Harrison worked as a school social work consultant for the Kansas State Department of Education, developing and strengthening educational programming for children with severe behavioral and cognitive disabilities. Dr. Harrison’s research interests include school social work, functional behavioral assessment, and understanding the social-emotional needs of Latino children and families, and she has presented locally, regionally, and nationally on those topics. Dr. Harrison has served as the University Liaison board member for the Kansas School Social Work Association for the past five years and was recently appointed to the Kansas Health Policy Association’s Mental Health Prescription Drug Advisory Council.

Cherie Blanchat

University of Kansas, Kansas, USA

Cherie Blanchat, LMSW is a school social worker in Topeka, Kansas. In addition she is a lecturer at the University of Kansas where she teaches a course on school social work and currently serves as the president of the Kansas School Social Work Association. As a school social worker she specializes in working with the immigrant Latino population, including in the evaluation of Spanish-speaking students for special education and has designed and implemented a therapeutic group for immigrant Latino students. She previously taught as an adjunct faculty member at Ottawa University and has given several state and local presentations on issues facing immigrant Latino students in the classroom. Topics she speaks on include culture shock, the cycle of acculturation, the politics and ethics of educating immigrated children, family dynamics, school-based interventions, and distinguishing difference from disability.

Richard Harrison

University of Kansas, Kansas, USA

Dr. Richard Harrison is currently an educational consultant for fourteen school districts across the state of Kansas. Dr. Harrison consults around behavior issues for school-wide supports as well as individual supports for all students and is part of an interdisciplinary team that consults for the Kansas State Department of Education. Dr. Harrison has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Utah State University, a Masters degree in Behavioral Analysis and Therapy from Southern Illinois University and a Ph.D. in Special Education Policy Integration from the University of Kansas. Dr. Harrison’s current interests include applied strategies to integrate all students into society and the educational system. He also has an interest in creating economic structures that promote the concepts of social justice and democracy.


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