Ten Strategies for Supporting Immigrant Students and Families

Our in-depth guide on supporting immigrant families includes more than 50 strategies for schools and early childhood centers. Here are some of the most important ones to keep in mind, with links to more in-depth information.

These strategies are part of the Colorín Colorado resource guide, How to Support Immigrant Students and Families: Strategies for Schools and Early Childhood Programs.

Key Strategies

Related resources

  1. Help families keep their emergency contact information updated. This step can make the difference in whether a child goes home with a known caregiver if a family member is detained. Remind all families to update their contact information regularly.
  2. Ensure all staff understand immigrant students’ rights. All K-12 staff have an obligation to protect students' privacy and civil rights, as well as their access to an education, regardless of immigration status. This is critical for staff working in the front office and on enrollment.
  3. Let all students and families know that they are welcome. A welcoming environment that celebrates students' cultures and encourages family leadership creates a strong foundation for relationships, as well as for identifying and addressing challenges.
  4. Create different channels for communication in families’ languages. Schools must communicate in families’ preferred language. Identifying families’ preferred means of contact can also help schools communicate more effectively and efficiently.
  5. Become familiar with relevant immigration policies so that you can answer questions. This may include “sensitive locations guidance” (which directs immigration enforcement to avoid activity in certain public spaces like schools and early childhood centers), district policies on immigration enforcement, discipline policies, and other related program/local/state policies. Ideally, all staff should understand these policies and protocols.
  6. Connect families with resources and provide opportunities for them to ask questions. It is critical to hear from your families about their questions and concerns before determining what kind of support will be most useful. At that point, educators, schools, and/or districts can identify which resources will be appropriate to share in ways that follow district guidelines.
  7. Reach out to community organizations that represent and serve your families. Community partners can provide valuable support and insight regarding immigrant families – as well as volunteers! They can be especially helpful on issues related to meeting students' basic needs and connecting families to legal resources.
  8. Learn how stress, anxiety, and trauma impact students of all ages. The impacts of these stressors will vary based on students’ ages. Learn how different kinds of stressors affect students in your age group; become familiar with age-appropriate forms of self-expression and social-emotional support; and take steps to prevent and address bullying.
  9. Learn more about the ways immigration issues impact students. Immigration policies affect students in complex ways that students may not discuss openly. Learn more about the immigration issues that may impact your students and families, and how to extend that conversation to your school, program, or community.
  10. Provide opportunities for staff to collaborate, debrief, and recharge. Collaboration gives staff the chance to draw upon different perspectives and expertise – which leads to more effective support for students and families. In addition, providing social-emotional support for staff working on challenging issues (or who are impacted by those issues themselves) can help the team sustain their work throughout the year.

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