Refugee Services

Who is a Refugee?

A refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…” (According to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention).


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The Refugee Experience

  • There are more than 15 million refugees worldwide
  • Only 1% of all refugees are resettled in another country
  • There are 26 million internally displaced people
  • Most refugee camps do not have running water, electricity, and only cover basic necessities
  • Most refugees arrive in the U.S. with little English or knowledge of modern city living






How JVS Works with Refugees

JVS was originally established in 1949 to assist Holocaust survivors, refugees, and displaced persons build new lives in this country. Since 2004, JVS has been resettling refugees in Kansas City, MO and resettles nearly 500 refugees every year.
Our Programs

JVS works with refugees to help them become self-sufficient in America. Services provided to refugees include:

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  • Locating and furnishing housing
  • Providing basic necessities
  • Case management/counseling
  • Food and cash assistance
  • Employment assistance
  • Referrals to schools and English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Referrals to healthcare
  • Cultural orientation


Frequently Asked Questions

How do refugees get to Kansas City?

The U.S. government has a refugee resettlement program to which refugees worldwide can apply. JVS is a local affiliate to the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) located in Washington, DC. Through this program, nearly 500 refugees from over 15 countries relocate to Kansas City each year.

Why do refugees need help?

Refugees have been forced to flee violence, experience trauma, and many have never known the meaning of “home.” When refugees arrive here, most have never had running water, electricity, or any of the modern amenities we are used to in a city.

For more information contact:

Steve Weitkamp, Director, Refugee Services
816-471-2808 ext. 1123

Refugee Employment Services

Refugee Employment Services are provided to eligible individuals having resided in the USA for a period of less than five years. Pre-job placement services include work readiness training, individual employment planning and counseling, skills assessments, job search skills, application tutoring, mock interviewing, and direct referral to employers posting full and part-time permanent positions. Pre-job placement services also may include transportation, interpretation/translation. Retention and follow-up services are provided to individuals following job placement, geared towards resolving acculturation difficulties specific to the workplace.

We serve over 350 job seekers each year and 80% of those we place in employment are still employed at 90 days.

For further information contact:

Stephen LeCerf, Manager of Refugee Employment Services
816-471-2808 ext. 1134


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Social Work

The Social Work Program at JVS offers intensive case management and therapy services for both adults and children/youth. Services are focused towards underserved refugee and immigrant populations. Individuals served by the Social Work Program are often able to connect with other JVS programs which include immigration services, employment services and cultural orientation. Social Work staff interacts with a diverse client population from all around the world with a variety of strengths and needs. As a result, individuals and families working with the Social Work receive personalized care which may include the following services:

In order to accomplish these services the Social Work Program utilizes a staff of experienced Masters level social workers as well as undergraduate and graduate social work students.


The Social Work Program offers individual and group Narrative Therapy for adults and Youth Narrative Therapy as well as group therapy for youth. These services are open to refugees and immigrants who are interested in meeting either individually or in a group. Therapy sessions are lead by a licensed social worker under clinical supervision. Therapy allows individuals to help deal with stress, learn more about themselves, develop strengths or skills and set goals for the future.

“I really enjoy working with JVS. The people were really people I could trust. I felt comfortable working with them. I’m happy working with them.”


Global Gardens:

The Global Gardens Project works to develop vacant lots into garden spaces for refugees to grow on. Many refugees come from agricultural backgrounds, and when they find themselves living in apartments in the urban core, they long for a little bit of land to grow vegetables that are familiar to them. We are finding suitable lots in refugees’ neighborhoods, transforming them to gardens, and connecting refugees with a garden plot. In collaboration with Cultivate KC, we provide educational workshops to train refugee growers about growing in the  U.S., climate, soils, water, organic growing methods, and nutrition. The goals of the Global Gardens Project are to increase access to and consumption of healthy food, improve health indicators, and increase social integration of refugees.

put on refugee resettlement pageIntensive Case Management

While acknowledging barriers and hardships, the Social Work Program focuses on the skills and abilities of clients in order to connect them to the resources they need to be successful. Social Work staff offers assistance with fulfilling basic needs (ie: housing and food), addressing domestic violence concerns, connecting to services for mental health, navigating the court system and identifying employment resources. Social work staff members work as part of a team with other departments of JVS including Center for New Americans (CNA) and Employment Services in order to enhance services and foster success among the individuals who seek these services.

If you are interested in field education opportunities at JVS, please contact:
Sarah Cirese-Payton, LMSW, Social Work Program Manager