Earlier this summer, Paulene Barnes, the IRC in Atlanta’s Care Linkage Coordinator, attended the first national Bridge to Safety (B2S) workshop in Dallas, Texas. B2S is a project designed to integrate protocols for screening and responding to domestic violence and sexual assault into existing IRC resettlement service delivery models. The aim of B2S is to create a safe space for refugee and immigrant women to disclose experiences of violence to IRC staff, to equip staff to respond to disclosures with effective follow-up support, including safety and service planning, and to connect clients to appropriate external services, such as shelter, medical, mental health, and legal assistance.
The three day Dallas workshop included representatives from the nine B2S implementing IRC offices: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boise, Dallas, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Sacramento and Salt Lake City, and provided opportunities for discussion and sharing of best practices. Participants also toured the IRC Dallas office and learned more about their programming and services.
The majority of discussions focused around current implementations of the B2S program and identified avenues for future collaboration and coordination of the program across IRC networks to better serve women survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. “It was a rewarding experience to gather with colleagues from across the IRC network and to have rich and focused discussions on B2S tools and implementation,” said Paulene. “Hearing the varied experiences of colleagues in different states offered new perspectives and insight into the B2S program.”
One of the most engaging discussions revolved around the B2S screening tool itself, as the group focused on refining the definition of domestic violence within the program, and reviewed how, as practitioners, they can best provide services to clients after their disclosures. The group also reviewed and revised the B2S screening questionnaire to ensure that the needs of refugee and immigrant women can be most accurately captured by IRC staff. Paulene explained, “We conduct the B2S screening in conjunction with our mental health screenings during the first few weeks of a client’s arrival. The mental health screenings include the Refugee Health Screener-15 which screens for PTSD, depression, and anxiety, family planning for women, and a past torture/trauma questionnaire.”
To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Alexis Buchanan, Development Manager at Alexis.Buchanan [at] Rescue.org or 678-636-8930.