Recently, the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties awarded funding to Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) in support of mental health services for Afghan arrivals resettling in our community. Grants of $2,500 from the McDermott Family Fund and $2,500 from the Community Emergency Relief Fund have been provided to NVFS in support of its Multicultural Center’s mental health services.

The McDermott Family Fund is a donor-advised fund of the Community Foundation. The McDermott family wanted to support mental health needs of Afghan evacuees resettling in the area and provided this grant to help NVFS expand its capacity to meet the growing mental health needs of recent Afghan arrivals seeking services.

The Community Emergency Relief Fund is a component fund of the Community Foundation that was established in March 2020 to collect and disburse funds to address needs related to COVID-19 and other community-wide events or disasters. In 2021, the CERF provided grants to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington and ADAMS Center to support resettlement efforts for Afghan evacuees at the beginning of the evacuee crisis. In 2022, it provided matching funding to the $2,500 grant provided by the McDermott Family Fund in an effort to further support NVFS’ mental health services for Afghan arrivals.

“Mental health and immigration legal services are in high demand as Afghan evacuees and refugees, who arrived in crisis, are now resettled and are looking to rebuild their lives,” said Stephanie Berkowitz, President and CEO of Northern Virginia Family Service. “This funding through the McDermott Family Fund and the Community Emergency Relief Fund is so timely and will expand NVFS’ capacity to meet the recovery needs of Afghan refugees fleeing violence.”

About the Need

NVFS’ Multicultural Center (MC) provides mental health, legal and case management, and information/referral services for people impacted by the crisis in Afghanistan. This includes services for evacuees and their families and members of the Afghan community who have lived in Northern Virginia and have been greatly impacted as well.

Currently, NVFS provides traditional individual and family mental health services in a limited capacity. NVFS is working on growing these services due to increased need. NVFS reports that its team members had full caseloads prior to the crisis in Afghanistan and the demand for the Multicultural Center’s mental health services continued to increase during the pandemic. The additional crisis faced by Afghan evacuees and now also Ukrainian refugees means that the demand will continue to outpace available staffing in the short term.

In addition to the traditional mental health services described below, NVFS provides mental health education and coping skills workshops for evacuees, in collaboration with the resettlement agencies. This allows the MC team to disseminate information and support to a larger number of evacuees more quickly, while they work to increase our capacity for counseling services.

NVFS also provides training and staff development to the employees of resettlement agencies, other local service providers and public agencies on trauma-informed approaches to serving refugees and evacuees. NVFS team members participate in Afghan evacuee workgroups in several local jurisdictions. The training and staff development, provided by NVFS’ expert staff, is essential to ensuring the community is responding effectively and proactively to the needs of newcomers.

How You Can Help

NVFS’ waitlist is currently as long as 3 months, depending on the language needed, so funds provided through the McDermott Family Fund and the Community Emergency Relief Fund and similar initiatives that allow the organization to increase capacity for these much-needed services are needed. NVFS currently has one mental health counselor on its team who speaks Dari and Farsi, the languages spoken by the majority of the Afghan evacuees; currently, the counselor’s case load is full. More resources for the expansion of these serves will help to ensure mental health services are provided to all who need it.

To support the NVFS and the Multicultural Center, visit:

About the NVFS Multicultural Center (MC)

The NVFS Multicultural Center (MC) provides a set of integrated programs that provide holistic mental health, legal and social services to immigrants and refugees. The MC provides:

• A strength-based approach that starts by validating every person’s culture, immigration experience, and acculturation/adjustment needs.
• A multi-ethnic, multilingual group of social workers, psychiatrists, counselors, immigration attorneys, and graduate interns to support their needs. Trauma-informed services that help individuals and families feel safe to deal with the effects of their traumatic experiences.
• Expertise in specific recovery services including programs for survivors of torture, trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, community access and integration services, anger management and BIP groups, and immigration legal assistance that includes humanitarian relief, among others.
• Team members speak the following languages: English, Spanish, Arabic, Amharic, French, Farsi and Dari.

Questions or want to know more about how you can help? Contact Nicole Acosta at [email protected].