• July/August 2015
  • Vol. 16, No. 6

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Working With Interpreters to Engage Families

An article from the Family and Youth Services Bureau's National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth provides information for social service professionals about the life-altering role of interpretation services to youth and families whose first language is not English. Its primary message is that access to culturally competent interpreters who are well-versed in providing social services is a necessary component of a successful transformation into participatory, engaged citizens.

The article offers four tips for working with interpreters:

  • Hire a former volunteer: This person not only speaks the client's language, but also understands and can discuss the details about the organization's programs. This can also help avoid reliance upon young people to interpret for their own families—an unnecessarily stressful, potentially negative situation for children and youth.
  • Explain your philosophy and expectations: Request the same interpreter(s) to work with your client(s) routinely; suggest that interpreter(s) attend orientation sessions. Explain assignment details, the philosophy and processes of your organization, and your expectations of the interpretation services.
  • Check in with youth: Ask them if they're happy with their interactions with the interpreter.
  • Give youth choices: Advise that clients may make requests, such as asking for an interpreter from a preferred gender.

The ability to successfully work with interpreters can lead to better engagement with children, youth, and families. Interpreters can help build trust between clients and service providers by creating a bridge for communication and helping clients feel safer and more comfortable receiving services. Hanna Getachew-Kreusser, program director of Minneapolis' Avenues for Homeless Youth's transitional living program, found that "[Working with quality interpreters has] validated for us that this person from the community could vouch for us, how safe we are."

Access the article "4 Tips for Working With Interpreters" on the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth website at http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/news/2015/04/4-tips-working-interpreters.

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