The most challenging part of my life was moving to the United States in 1989 when I was only 9-years old with my parents and my 2-year old sister. I did not know an ounce of English.  Getting adjusted to a totally different culture, environment, school etc. were a few of the things I had to do to be able to survive.  I had to learn English fast, not the best English, but enough to be able to help my parents who counted only on me to help them pay bills, find jobs, and get around.

I wish I had I known back then that there were services (like the ones we offer here at Behavioral Support Services) where a therapist could work with children that come from other countries and help them assimilate the change, my life would have been different and easier.  I think about this every day, especially when I see one of our recipients diagnosed with an adjustment disorder because they have recently relocated here from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, etc. It makes me happy to do what I do today because I know I am part of that help they are receiving and because I knew the struggle it was for me and how it can change a person.  In my case, I became self-conscious and an introvert.  I would not speak up unless spoken to nor would I stand up for myself ever.  There were moments that I would just talk in my head, say to myself what I wanted to say to the world and knew I had the right information or right answer but would just not speak. Now as an adult I have been able to overcome most of these issues by pushing myself and challenging myself at times. Public speaking, was and is something I fear the most, will I say something wrong? Will they make fun of me?  All of these feelings can definitely limit a person in life and in their careers.

Working in this field has taught me a lot about the struggles that our youth go through and not only because they are immigrant but because of the many situations they have to encounter in their lives, learn from and assimilate.  It can be anything from going from one grade to another, moving from one city to another to moving from one country to another with different culture, language, etc.

As the Supervisor for the Targeted Case Management Program, it is great to see how the TCMs are able to assist these individuals in linking them to great resources in the community to be able to adjust to their new environment and helping them in navigating the system.  TCMs can help individual coordinate a variety of services based on the individual’s needs and assist them in ensuring they receive adequate services by monitoring them and their progress. TCMs are there to advocate for them in different areas such as medical, social, educational among others.

Author: Lisseth Russa, PSR & TCM Program Director

Date: May 4, 2017