REFUGEES AS A group have outworked and outperformed their American-born classmates, dispelling fears that large numbers would follow their parents into welfare or low-paying jobs.
But in 1983, local educators began swapping stories of a significant number of young refugees who were having problems ranging from simple frustration and withdrawal to dropping out and joining gangs.
So in 1985, the State Department's Bureau of Refugee Programs built small versions of American high schools--complete with 40-minute periods and bells, libraries, locker rooms and baseball diamonds--in refugee camps in the Philippines and Thailand. There, children ages 12 to 16 who are bound for America receive 20 weeks of English, math and social and cultural training. A recent study of the program--Preparation for American Secondary Schools (PASS)--found that twice as many PASS refugees were rated "above average" by their American schools as those who didn't attend the program. A similar program was added this year for the children 6 to 11 years old.
When they arrive in a community, refugees are met by their sponsors, processed through a central resettlement office and introduced to myriad social services and programs offering job and language training. The emphasis is on finding work quickly. Resettlement agencies are ill-equipped to deal with emotional and psychological traumas.