The Office of Refugee Resettlement (“ORR”) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides grant money to support local school systems that are impacted by significant numbers of newly arrived refugee children. Last year, ORR provided about $15 million in grants.
The ORR Program “target[s] school-age refugees between the ages of five (5) and 18 years of age with program activities that include English as a Second Language instruction, after-school tutorials, programs that encourage high school completion and full participation in school activities, after-school and/or summer clubs and activities, parental involvement programs, bilingual/bicultural counselors, interpreter services and other services.”
The San Jose Mercury News reports that about $890,000 in grants were awarded to school districts in California. The money went to districts that received more than 300 refugee school-age children during the past three fiscal years. “We are excited to announce these awards,” said state Department of Social Services Director John Wagner. “These funds will allow our local partners to provide needed supplemental educational services to refugee students.”
From the information I could gather (in a very difficult to understand chart from ORR), it appears that the program has assisted over 69,000 refugee children from FY 2007 to FY 2009.
It’s unclear whether the cuts in the upcoming budget will affect the ORR grant program. Hopefully not, as refugee children are some of the most vulnerable people in our community, and the federal money for helping them integrate will likely yield long term benefits for them and for our country.