advocacy with immigrant survivors toolkit


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Accessing Resources: Connecting survivors to community-based resources and support


Every survivor brings great strengths, skills and creativity to meeting their everyday needs, even if those strengths and skills are not all obvious at the time that advocates first come in contact with survivors. When advocates try to get a picture of survivors’ networks, key resources, and opportunities to seek or receive additional support, they can help acknowledge and build upon survivors’ strengths and resilience.


For many immigrant survivors, community-based supports can be more helpful than systems-based supports for domestic violence. And many immigrant survivors may not qualify for public benefits and traditional “safety-net” types of resources, so thoroughly exploring informal networks and resources is key to being able to create reasonable and helpful goals and plans.


Connect survivors to community-based resources: Practice basics


The following steps can serve as a guide:

·      Support the participant to identify a few reasonable, practical goals that will be the focus of your work together.Consider how tone and body language can influence this type of conversation with a survivor who may be in crisis, experiencing the effects of trauma, or worried about retaining shelter or other services. These kinds of conversations, if not done sensitively, can feel like orders and/or judgment. For example, a survivor might identify “safety” as a goal. Ask the survivor what “safety” means, in order to (1) understand the things, relationships, actions, etc. that will enhance survivor safety, and (2) help identify current and additional resources that will be useful. Remember to let the survivor know why you are asking these questions, and try to engage the survivor in a conversation – give feedback, offer ideas, etc. – rather than an interview. Some questions you might ask could include, “How will you know that you are safer?” or “What does “safety” look or feel like to you?”

·      Explore existing resources or supports that the survivor already uses to enhance safety.Be creative in asking questions that help the survivor identify people, things, knowledge, etc. that are just part of a daily routine or have become habits. For example, a survivor’s mother and neighbor know that domestic violence is an issue in the family and the children know to call 911 for help.

·      Identify new resources or new ways to use familiar resources that help the survivor move toward their established goals.Advocates’ knowledge of additional resources, survivor rights, and legal remedies will be helpful, of course, but it is also important for advocates to explore how existing resources and opportunities may be more fully utilized. For example, the program could provide a survivor with a 911 cell phone, the survivor can store a copy of essential documents and cash in case of emergency with their mother, and the survivor can join a community group to meet neighbors at the new apartment.



The Goals, Strengths, and Resources Map  can be used as a guide to conversations with immigrant survivors about their strengths and resources, what they would like to accomplish while they participate in your program, and what additional resources or strategies would be helpful in reaching their goals. Using the examples above –


Sample Goals, Strengths, and Resources Map


Survivor Goals Existing Supports/Resources

New or Enhanced

Supports or Resources

Impact or Outcomes*

What do you want to accomplish or change while we are working together? Who do you call for help on this now? Who has helped you in the past? What resources or supports do you already use for this issue? What would help you get closer to this goal? What is different today than when we started working together on this goal?
1: Safety
  • Mom
  • Neighbor
  • Kids know 911
  • Order of Protection
  • Safety plan for mom and kids
  • Join community group to meet new neighbors
  • Kids have supervised visitation with their dad
Has 911 cell phone and updated safety plan
2: Housing Good rental history
  • Submit 3 rental applications
  • Apply for public benefits

New apartment with friend who shares rent payments

Public benefits for kids ($300/month)

3: Health
  • Exercise regularly
  • Doctor knows about domesti violence
  • Meet with faith leader for counseling
  • Kids in afternoon playgroup
  • Document injuries
Connection with church
4: Job/Employment
  • Makes and sells tamales
  • Brothers owns a restaurant
  • Good relationship with past manager


Developed business cards for tamales


* This column can be used for assessing or documenting progress toward a specific goal; or for recording impact and outcomes for advocates who want to use this tool for those purposes as well.


Connect survivors to community-based resources: Enhance your practice


With the survivor, think broadly about the resources available throughout the community, especially those that are not usually designated to address violence and abuse, and whether they are useful and accessible to the survivor. For example:

·      Immigrant communities’ stores, markets, and places of worship can be very helpful resources for survivors. Often these locations will post rooms for rent, employment opportunities, or resources that are culturally or linguistically appropriate. If the survivor frequents any specific store, agency or organization, there may be additional supports available there.

·      Some organizations and community resources are open to everyone. Food banks, for example often have fewer restrictions on who they can serve, and many of them are connected to other resources as well.

·      Families with school-age children often can access additional resources through a school social worker.


Some traditional resources might not be accessible or safe for immigrant survivors. Follow the survivor’s lead in order to assess if these resources require additional safety planning, or if alternatives will need to be developed. Some scenarios might include:

·      Some survivors will not want to seek support from culturally-specific resources because of a small or tightly-knit community.

·      Legal resources or law enforcement are not ideal options for survivors from families with mixed immigration status or whose partners have unresolved immigration status.


Economic security can be especially challenging for immigrant survivors, for reasons ranging from limited English proficiency to licensure (e.g., nursing) in country of origin that is not recognized in the US. Again, with the survivor, think broadly about the survivor’s skills, experience, and options, for example:

·      Many immigrant families utilize creative income-patching strategies to bring additional resources into the household. Ask survivors if they have any skills or talents that they could use to earn extra money (cooking, caring for children, cleaning, home/car repair, teaching/tutoring, cutting hair, sewing, etc.) Sometimes, these talents can turn into a career path. Be mindful, however, that US immigration law requires that immigrants receive permission to work (work authorization).

·      Think about whether there are opportunities for sharing or trading resources. For example, ask survivors if there is someone they could share an apartment with, or if there is someone else with children who can trade child care to enable the survivor to work, run errands, or apply for jobs or housing.


It is vitally important also that we expand our thinking beyond the bare necessities. Survivors deserve more than the bare minimum, and advocates can often elevate survivor resilience by connecting them with resources that build happiness, reduce stress, increase creativity and build social bonds.