Immigration Trauma

In an expansion of its work since 2012 for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), Kristi House was tapped by the federal government to provide therapy services to children and youth who have come to the U.S. unaccompanied from other countries. Kristi House’s Proyecto Brazos Abiertos program provides free evidence-based therapy to minors designated as unaccompanied children who have experienced trauma. Many of these youth are in residence at shelters in South Florida while efforts are made to place them with relatives in the U.S.

Many of these youth, some of whom have been separated from their parents upon arrival, are suffering from separation trauma, anxiety and PTSD symptoms as a result of their journeys and experiences in their home countries. Kristi House is also reaching out to sponsors and families in South Florida homes who have youth placed who might need therapy services.

If you know of an eligible child, or for more information on the program, please complete this referral form, or contact Kristi House’s Program Supervisor, Vanessa Ramirez.

Kristi House's Proyecto Brazos Abiertos Program:

Program Highlights:

  • Free evidence-based trauma therapy for children in licensed shelters or post-release to sponsor-families
  • Provided through a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Comprehensive trauma assessment completed at intake, including standardized assessments
  • Utilizing Culturally-Modified Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CM-TF-CBT), developed for use with various cultures
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is the most well-supported and effective treatment for children who have been abused or traumatized
  • Treatment protocol is designed to be relatively short in duration (12-25 session average)
  • TF-CBT helps children and caregivers process traumatic events and learn skills to promote emotional and behavioral stability
  • Evidence-based family therapy is also available, utilizing Risk Reduction through Family Therapy for adolescents struggling with trauma symptoms and high risk behaviors, such as substance abuse, and Alternatives for Families a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for families struggling with severe family conflict and physical abuse allegations
  • Family Advocacy services that help link families to community resources and assist with navigating various U.S. systems


Criteria for UAC Program:

  • Minors designated as Unaccompanied Children
  • Minors ages 3 to 17
  • Experienced a traumatic event
  • Symptoms related to the trauma such as depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, high-risk behaviors, PTSD, etc.
  • Living in Miami-Dade County or remote telehealth services across Florida
Providers from across the country gathered in Washington, DC in May 2019 at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s Unaccompanied Children Task Force meeting. In the photo are Kristi House’s Program Director Dr. Vanessa Ramirez (fr. row, 3rd from left) and Assistant Clinical Supervisor Cedrin Vera, LCSW (fr. row, 3rd from right).
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