Working With Refugees in the U.S.: Trauma-Informed and Structurally Competent Social Work Approaches


  • Jason Ostrander University of Connecticut School of Social Work
  • Alysse Melville
  • S. Megan Berthold



Refugees, trauma, ecological perspective, structural competence


Social workers, government, and non-governmental organizations in the United States have been inadequately prepared to address the impact of trauma faced by refugees fleeing persecution. Compounding their initial trauma experiences, refugees often undergo further traumatic migration experiences and challenges after resettlement that can have long-lasting effects on their health and mental health. Micro and macro social work practitioners must understand the impact of these experiences in order to promote policies, social work training, and clinical practice that further the health and well-being of refugees and society. Social workers are in a unique position to provide multi-dimensional, structurally competent care and advocacy for diverse refugee populations. The experiences of Cambodian refugees will be used to examine these issues. We will explore the benefits of an ecological perspective in guiding interventions that support refugees, and will apply the framework of structural competence to highlight multidimensional implications for social work with refugee populations.

Author Biography

Jason Ostrander, University of Connecticut School of Social Work

Jason Ostrander, MSW is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work(UConn) and a researcher in residence at the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work. At present, Jason is enrolled in UConn doctoral program and will be defending his dissertation on October 31, 2016. Jason was previously employed as a congressional aide to Congressman John Olver and has been very active in politics on the local, state, and federal levels.  His work focuses on political social work and political participation of social workers.  Jason is a member of NASW and received the 2015 Association for Community Organization and Social Administration’s Outstanding Student Award.


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