Best Practices for Working with Immigrant Families

Key Messages

It is important to emphasize a values-based framework when working with immigrant communities, when producing outreach and education materials, and when speaking to community members, key officials, and the media. Here are some examples:

  • “We’re all in this together. California is stronger when everyone is covered.”
  • “We all have a stake in the fight for Health4All.”
  • “Health is a human right. Everyone should have access to health care no matter where they were born.”

Messaging on Health4All Kids is powerful within the context of its impact on whole communities. Undocumented children are part of mixed-status families that include family members who are undocumented, US citizens, or lawfully present immigrants (“green card holders”). Here are some examples:

  • “When undocumented children and adults have access to health care California is stronger.”
  • “The Health4All Kids expansion is a key step towards Health4All and in making sure that everyone Californian has access to health care.”

Health4All Kids drafted messaging for community organizations and advocates to use with either community members or decision makers. Use this language to draft your own materials or when speaking to the public.

Download Messaging for Community Members Download Messaging for Decision Makers
Download Messaging for Community Members in Spanish Download Messaging for Decision Makers in Spanish


Service providers can help immigrant families navigate and access often complex systems of care by assisting with paperwork, providing empathetic and patient-centered care, and linking families to community resources. It is important to understand that because of the possible repercussions of the disclosure of their undocumented status, immigrant families may delay or not seek services out of fear of deportation. Organizations and health centers can reduce these fears by making sure their policies and practices do not create additional obstacles for immigrants.

Here are some helpful considerations when working with immigrant families:

  • Assure immigrant families that they are not alone in this process and that you are here to help them.
  • Ask the family which language they prefer to use and have qualified interpreters available.
  • Be prepared with application forms and other documents in a variety of languages.
  • Help families navigate complex systems of care by assisting with paperwork.
  • Provide empathetic and patient-centered care by listening and addressing fears and concerns and walking families though the process of applying for health services.
  • Provide training for all organization staff on how to work with immigrants, provide adequate services, and be an advocate for immigrant rights.
  • Identify community resources and partner with organizations that provide legal, education, and other immigrant services and link families to these resources.
  • Be mindful and respectful of intersecting identities. Intersecting identities can include gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability, and race or ethnicity. For example, undocumented queer youth, or undocuqueers, see their identities as a “double closet,” coming out to friends and family as both undocumented and queer.
  • Avoid using terms like “illegal” “Dreamer” or “DACA kids” as these terms have negative connotations. For example, immigrant youth who did not attend college often don’t relate to students in the Dream movement and therefore do not identify as “Dreamers.”

Addressing Concerns

Additional Resources

  • Covered California has more information on eligibility and immigration issues.
  • Immigrant Health Toolkit, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, was designed to provide practical information and resources for pediatricians to use to address some common matters related to immigrant child health. Pediatricians can play a special role in supporting the health and well-being of immigrant children. By recognizing the unique challenges and strengths that many immigrants experience; pediatricians can identify effective practice strategies and relevant resources that support health within the community. A state-by-state directory of legal resources is also provided to help pediatricians determine local services and potential partners to help immigrant families with a variety of issues related to child health and well-being.