Webinar on mental health of immigrant & refugee children in Canada

November 25th, 2014

Morton Beiser CM, MD, FRCP, Scientist, Keenan Research Centre at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital and Priya Watson, MD, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health present a webinar December 5, 2014, “I May look as if I’m feeling good, but sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not: The Mental health of immigrant and refugee kids in Canada”.

From the announcement:

“The speed with which immigrant kids as a whole learn new languages, their often spectacular school achievements and the apparent ease with which they take on the dress and behaviours of other Canadian kids can give the impression that all is well. That assumption would be a mistake. Although many immigrant kids and youth are probably integrating well, others are not. Some are experiencing difficulty in learning English and/or French, some are falling behind in school and dropping out before they should, some are experiencing problems with their families, some are having trouble deciding whether they are “ethnic”, Canadian or neither, many are facing discrimination, and some are being attracted to gang culture. Resettlement policies and programs for immigrant kids need to take into account the specific problems that these children and youth face that are above and beyond the developmental challenges common to all children. They also need to understand the resilience of immigrant youngsters and where this resilience comes from.

“Even if we had the best policies and programs in place (and we do not), some children and youth in immigrant families would develop mental health problems requiring specialized care. The fact that they are young people who have experienced major life disruptions, that they and their families may have language problems and that their cultural backgrounds likely differ from the health care professionals to whom their care is entrusted create particular issues that have to be resolved.

“In this Fireside Chat (webinar), Dr. Morton Beiser will summarize research and accumulated knowledge about the mental health of immigrant and refugee children and discuss how this information can provide a back-drop for policy and program planning. Dr. Priya Watson will discuss clinical guidelines for assessing and treating children from immigrant and refugee backgrounds”.

For more details, and information on how to register, click here.

Related Resources
Caring for Kids New to Canada
Caring for Kids New to Canada, Mental Health & Development

Discounting immigrant families: Neoliberalism & the framing of Canadian immigration policy change

November 16th, 2014

As part of part of the SSHRC project, Immigration Trajectories of Immigrant Families, the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement has released the paper Discounting Immigrant Families: Neoliberalism and the Framing of Canadian Immigration Policy Change.

From the abstract:

“This paper aims to develop a conceptual framework to assist in understanding how the immigrant family is impacted by recent changes to immigration policy in Canada. We contend that neoliberalism, broadly defined, is a helpful lens through which to comprehend some of the specific policies as well as discursive outcomes which have real effects on immigrant families. Based on our findings from an in-depth literature review, our goal is to identify and summarize the recent changes to the Canadian policy environment and to develop a critical conceptual framework through which to understand policy change in relation to families and immigrants”.

The too-brief discussion of the “ideal immigrant” and the “ideal immigrant family” in the paper is provocative, or at least could be. Children, as part of an immigrant family, are social policy orphans. There is little attention devoted to immigrant children, both from the academic/research community and the federal/provincial government departments responsible for citizenship and immigration. The RCIS papers lack of depth on this issue fails to answer the first research question posed in the SSHRC project, i.e., How do all members of the family facilitate or impede the integration of immigrants? The paper briefly touches on the federal policy changes to the definition of dependent children from 22 and under to 19 and under, for children arriving under the economic class and/or family sponsorship. This is an important issue to highlight. Immigrant children, from birth to age eight, are also an important group to address. A federal policy response is warranted. Children in this age group are ripe for shaping, so to speak. It is odd that given the federal governments focus on integration, they are not developing programs, supports and services that promote acculturation. And why isn’t the academic/research community delving deeper?

Resource worth revisiting from frp.ca & news of a conference

October 30th, 2014

In 2010, the Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs (frp.ca) released an issue of their occasional journal, Perspectives in Family Support. The issue focused on newcomer families. It stands up today, four years later.  Included in that issue are:

frp.ca has announced its annual conference for 2015 to be held this year in Hamilton, Ontario. Review the program and register here.

Related link: welcomehere.ca ~ a collection of resources for immigrant families, and for those who work with them.

Metropolis 2014 sessions on immigrant children & youth

October 28th, 2014

Metropolis 2014 will take place Nov 3-7 in Milan.

There are a small number of sessions that address issues of immigrant children and youth. From the program:

Moving images in social networks. Youth, active citizenship, education and intercultural dialogue

The aim of the workshop is to analyse the different uses of social networks by young people, focusing on the way they deal with the issue of cultural diversity through videos and on how education can build competences and awareness to promote active citizenship and intercultural dialogue in social networks. The keywords social networks, youth, media education and intercultural dialogue will lead the debate to understanding the condition of youth in a social scenario marked by the increase of cultural diversity. Social networks can be considered not only as an important tool empowering active citizenship of young people, but also as a field where opinions and attitudes of closure and rejection of others can become widespread.

The presenters will broaden our consideration of the role of social networks in representing diversity related to migration. They will offer some insights and examples on the double role education has to play with regard to the use of social media by young people: to develop their awareness on how social media may be used to misrepresent or act against cultural diversity; to increase their competence for promoting intercultural dialogue in the online public sphere. Young filmmakers from The Netherlands, France-Martinique and Italy will present good practices of video use in social networks. The filmmakers have taken part in YEFF, the Young European Film Forum on Cultural Diversity, promoted since 2005 by a network of 9 European countries.

Unaccompanied minors in the European Union

Among the various forms of international migration that the European Union has experienced for a long time, the arrival of children without any parents or customary guardians (“unaccompanied minors”) has emerged as a migration phenomenon of growing importance, and as a particular challenge for receiving countries. While the number of unaccompanied minors in the different Member States is unequal, practices concerning the entry, reception, accommodation, and regulation of stay of these minors vary considerably. This is despite the fact that at EU level much attention has recently been devoted to reach a common approach regarding this vulnerable group of migrants.

This workshop will investigate different migration patterns of unaccompanied minors experienced in selected EU Member States, and the different national policies and practices concerning their entry, reception and stay. Presentations from Austria, Hungary, Sweden, Ireland and Italy will be complemented by a comparative European perspective from the European Migration Network. Ultimately, the workshop aims at identifying achievements, shortcomings and possible future developments at national and EU levels.

Unaccompanied children. Challenges, policies and practices

Unaccompanied children, who find themselves without parental care, frequently lack a legal status in the country of arrival, and very often it precludes them from benefiting of the rights they are entitled to as minors. Because of the very nature and vulnerabilities of this group of migrants, and consistent with the principles enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the assistance provided to unaccompanied migrant children should necessarily be flexible, and able to respond to specific needs of each and every concerned child. The guiding principle of all activities developed for unaccompanied children is the primary consideration of the best interest of the child, so as to identify and implement the most suitable and durable solution on an individual basis – i.e. return the country of origin, integration in the country of destination, resettlement or adoption. Drawing on experiences in different destination countries, the aim of the workshop is to explore the impact such actions have on the well-being of unaccompanied children and the implications of different policies and practices.

NB: Canadian Gardiner Barber Pauline of Dalhousie University is scheduled to participate in this workshop.

Immigrant youth at risk: Towards an inclusive policy through multi-disciplinary practice

Immigration provides opportunities for both the host society and individual immigrants. The young generation of immigrants will contribute to overcoming the economic and social crisis of aging societies. There are chances for innovation and new openings, but there are also challenges which national policymakers should identify and take specific actions to overcome. The workshop will address the situation of young immigrants who are not in education or training or those in situations of near social exclusion. Questions of mental health, education and social inclusion will be discussed in the workshop. We welcome participants representing different fields of action to contribute to the discussion of the potential of young immigrant generation and challenges to policymaking.

Last day to register is Oct 31.

Generation to generation: Empowering newcomer youth & families

October 26th, 2014

Cities of Migration Learning Exchange series presents a webinar on New Zealand and Canadian programs “that improve language and digital literacy for immigrant families and youth by removing barriers to technology, promoting inter-generational tutoring, and strengthening community relations through education”.

The webinar will be held October 30. To sign up, visit the Eventbrite site. From that site, the following description (links added):

In Wellington, New Zealand, Computers in Homes (CIH) adapted a program that provides low income families with computers and training and modified it to cater specifically to refugee families and their unique needs. CIH recognized an opportunity to make Internet access and basic computer technology a passport to improved integration outcomes for immigrant children and their parents.

In Toronto, Canada, Youth Empowering Parents (YEP) is an innovative, award-winning program that equips newcomer youth to teach newcomer adults English and computer skills. Rather than a traditional classroom with an instructor, YEP trains youth with the skills to act as effective volunteer tutors for adults in their community.

Speakers

  • Di Daniels, National Coordinator Computers in Homes (Wellington, New Zealand)
  • Agazi Afewerki, Executive Director, Youth Empowering Parents (Toronto, Canada)

Not all immigrant children created equal: A post from New Canadian Media

October 22nd, 2014
Written for  New Canadian Media Tuesday, 21 October 2014
Canadian schools may have become better at welcoming immigrant students, but we need better policies and practices to ensure every student succeeds.
Canadian schools may have become better at welcoming immigrant students, but we need better policies and practices to ensure every student succeeds. Photo Credit: Tulane Public Relations

by Charles Ungerleider in Vancouver

Canada’s economic prosperity and population depend upon immigration. Canada would not exist nor could it survive without immigration. Population maintenance depends upon immigration. The Canadian birth rate per woman is in the region of 1.6, far below the replacement ratio of approximately 2.1 births per woman. Canada’s economic prosperity is linked to having enough well educated people to support an increasingly dependent population.

A high proportion of recent immigrants have university degrees. In fact, by 2001, the portion of immigrants with university degrees was about twice that of the Canadian-born population. Although their parents are well educated, the children of immigrants still face challenges in school. The children of immigrants have lower reading literacy levels than their Canadian-born counterparts. It is fortunate that, over time, this disadvantage disappears for most students, but not all. Despite lower reading literacy, most recent immigrants perform better on average than their Canadian-born counterparts in mathematics and sciences.

… it is important to ensure that students acquire facility in English or French for academic purposes prior to enrolling in courses that depend on such fluency.

As most people recognize, group averages can hide significant variation among groups. When we look beyond the averages for immigrant students, we notice that immigrants from particular backgrounds are doing less well than their peers.  Students from Asian immigrant backgrounds are so numerous and, in general, so successful in school, that their performance obscures the results of the students from other immigrant backgrounds who find Canadian schooling more challenging, who perform less well and sometimes leave school prior to graduation.

Time is one of the challenges faced by immigrant students trying to learn English or French in school. Often they do not have sufficient time to both learn the language for academic purposes and to gather sufficient credits for graduation. The problem is compounded in those jurisdictions that place age limits on who can attend school and limits on the amount of additional support that students are able to receive. Older immigrant students are especially challenged by the limited time they can attend school.

Socio-economic factors

Confusion arising from different cultural expectations is also a challenge for immigrant students and for their parents. The prominence given to student engagement, critical thinking and questioning is sometimes quite different than the prior experiences that some immigrant students have had. For some students and parents, Canadian schools seem less demanding and too informal than their prior school experiences. The mismatch in expectations and experiences between prior and current school experiences adds to the challenge faced by immigrant students and their parents.

Immigrant students whose parents have neither educational nor economic advantages are often among those who find school more challenging, perform less well and leave school early. Even among those who graduate from high school, there are socio-economic differences between those who attend post-secondary school and those who do not, favouring those whose parents are more advantaged.

Child refugees or children of refugees who have not had the benefit of schooling prior to arrival in Canada are among the most challenged. Lacking familiarity with schools, prior school socialization, and basic literacy makes school a daunting set of challenges for refugee students.

Beyond averages

Over the course of their history, Canadian schools have become better at welcoming and educating immigrant students. There are many factors that have contributed to the noticeable improvement. Canadian society is less overtly discriminatory than in the past when immigration was restricted to persons of European origin. While it has not completely freed itself from its past, Canada has acknowledged and apologized to descendants of Canadians of Japanese, Punjabi, Chinese and other backgrounds whose ancestors were excluded and mistreated. This has contributed to a national climate more accepting of difference that influences all of Canada’s institutions, including its schools.

Immigrant students whose parents have neither educational nor economic advantages are often among those who find school more challenging …

Schools have recognized that early and continuing intervention is necessary whenever students exhibit evidence of being challenged – especially in the acquisition of literacy. Parents whose children appear fluent in social contexts with friends often infer that their children possess the requisite knowledge to succeed in courses demanding greater facility with the language than is normally used in social discourse. Although it challenges the expectations and aspirations of those parents, it is important to ensure that students acquire facility in English or French for academic purposes prior to enrolling in courses that depend on such fluency.

Schools know that they must observe student progress closely and make adjustments to the education and supports that immigrant students require to be successful in the school environment. This requires looking beyond group averages to see how individual students are succeeding.

Canada’s need for immigrants often translates into action designed to increase the likelihood of school success because adult productivity, health and engaged citizenship are built upon a foundation of successful schooling. But action is not uniform across all schools or for all immigrant students. To ensure greater uniformity, we need better policies, practices, close monitoring and a willingness to change practice and policy when the evidence suggests that they are not working to the advantage of all students.


Charles Ungerleider, a Professor Emeritus of Educational Studies at The University of British Columbia, is Managing Partner of Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group, LLP,  a partnership of professionals with experience in applied research, policy analysis and evaluation in a variety of domains, including K-12 and post-secondary education, social services, justice, and health. He has served as Deputy Minister of Education in British Columbia, Director of Research and Knowledge Mobilization at the Canadian Council on Learning, and Associate Dean (Teacher Education) at The University of British Columbia.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be freely re-published, with appropriate attribution, please.

Toronto Star op-ed: Canada tightens rules on immigrant and refugee children

July 30th, 2014

Ashley Chapman’s op-ed in the Toronto Star, published on Sat Jul 26 2014. All rights reserved.

“While much of the country is enjoying the summer, the federal government is quietly amending its immigration and refugee protection regulations. With only $62,000 set aside for both implementation and communications, it’s clear that they’re not wanting much public attention.

“And no wonder.

“As of Aug. 1, Canada is tightening the rules on which immigrant and refugee children are eligible to come to Canada with their parents. Until that date, unmarried dependants aged 21 and under could be included in their parents’ immigration or refugee applications. Exceptions were made for full-time students over 21 who were financially dependent on their parents. Under the new regulations, the cut-off age is 18 and under, with no exceptions for students.

“According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, “The amendments to the definition of dependent child respond to government priorities of having an immigration system focused on Canada’s economic and labour force needs.” Their own regulatory impact analysis statement cites evidence that the younger a child is when they immigrate, the better their long-term labour market outcomes. On average, they claim, Canadian education yields a higher financial return than foreign education.

“The economic evidence may stand, but Canada will likely lose out on some highly qualified immigrants who are understandably unwilling to move to a new country or continent without their 19- or 20-year-old progeny. What’s more, the changes go against one of the official objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act — to reunite families.

“Still, economic migrants make the choice to come to Canada; the amendments will have a much graver impact on those with very little choice in their immigration — refugees and others in the humanitarian immigration stream. In fact, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees took notice when the changes were first previewed in the Canada Gazette last year. So did the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association, and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

“In total, 60 groups and individuals submitted written comments after the changes were first proposed. Most were in opposition.

“Many refugees and asylum seekers will now have to decide whether safety in Canada is worth leaving a 19-year-old son or daughter behind in a potentially life-threatening situation.

“At the Canadian Council for Refugees’ Consultation last year, refugee settlement workers explained the gendered dangers this would create in countries where women are oppressed. No longer in their parents’ household, they could be forced to marry, face destitution or worse.

“One worker recounted a situation under the previous regulations where a 22-year-old daughter was the only remaining family member left in a new country (the neighbouring country where the family fled to make their refugee claim). The family pleaded with the minister of citizenship and immigration for an exemption, to no avail.

“Ironically, it was only after the daughter attempted to commit suicide that the situation improved. As a result of her new mental health issue, she could now be considered a dependant.

“With the age of dependency being lowered by three years, it’s estimated that 7,000 young adults will lose their chance to come to Canada with their families next year. About 800 of them will be the children of refugees. This is what happens when we let economic motives determine our immigration policy.

“Of course the government also claims the regulatory changes better reflect life in Canada, where — apparently — young adult children are fully independent by age 19.

“The Canadian reality is that most high school graduates are neither ready nor willing to make it entirely apart from their parents’ financial, social and emotional support. In fact, 42 per cent of 20-somethings in Canada still live with their parents, and most have never faced war, famine or torture.

“It’s no easy feat to qualify for refugee status internationally or in Canada; those who are accepted have been through more than most can imagine. Adding a forced familial separation onto that load is not only unconscionable, it’s unthinkable.

“But the government isn’t asking us to think about it. The meagre communications budget allotted the change will not reach anyone but those who are no longer eligible to apply. The rest of us will continue with our summer holiday plans and continue to joke that our 27-year-old offspring will leave the nest — someday”.

Ashley Chapman is with Citizens for Public Justice, a member-driven, faith-based public policy organization in Ottawa.

6th On New Shores: Immigrant and ethnic minority families: Bridging across cultural boundaries

July 12th, 2014

Update August 12, 2014: The 6th On New Shores conference will take place October 16-17, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.

ONS Tentative program.

ONS Registration.

ONS Travel information.

The conference is capped at 100. Get your registration in soon!

Contact organizer Dr. Susan Chuang for most current information: schuang@uoguelph.ca

Canadian Council for Refugees Youth Network seeks submissions from youth

May 7th, 2014

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) Youth Network is developing a guide whereby newcomer youth can share their experiences and provide useful insights for youth who are just arriving in Canada.The purpose of this alternative guide is to:

Provide an introductory resource that is primarily led by youth and that is specifically directed towards a youth audience.
Create a space for newcomer youth to voice their different experiences in Canada and to facilitate the sharing of useful tips on accessing information.
Connect experiences faced by Indigenous and newcomer youth across the country.
The CCR Youth Network would like to invite youth with immigrant and refugee experiences to contribute to this guide for youth arriving in Canada, by sharing your own stories and views on:

~Adjusting to life in Canada.
~Finding out about different ways of navigating the system in Canada and in different provinces (e.g. finding a school, finding out how to move around and where/who to ask for help in different situations).
~Services, organizations, groups and/or individuals that supported you the most when you arrived to Canada and in what ways.
~Resources you found most useful to learn about how things worked and to meet new people (e.g. community resources, after-school programs, employment, financial and/or legal resources, among others).
~The things that marked your experience the most, both before and after coming to Canada.
~The advice you would like to be able to give to yourself at the time you arrived in Canada.

Criteria for submitting your experiences:
The CCR is looking for stories that speak to refugee and immigrant youth’s experiences in different formats and media and that can be useful in some way for youth who are arriving in Canada. Formats and media may include but are not limited to:
~Poems
~Short recordings/videos
~Short stories
~Illustrations
~Photographs
… and more…

The CCR also welcomes any input about useful resources: for example, you could give us a list of the top 5-10 resources that were most useful to you when you arrived in Canada.

Languages:
All stories can be submitted in English or French. If you would like to submit a story that reflects on your life experiences before and after arriving in Canada, you may also send it in your first language. If you choose to do so, please send an English or French version as well.

Stories may be published anonymously if desired. If you wish to remain anonymous please indicate this in your email and the CCR will not publish your name. Stories must respect the CCR’s anti-oppression policy.

How to submit:
Send your submission by email to yn@ccrweb.ca by May 31, 2014. Submissions sent after that deadline may still be considered.
For more information, please contact the CCR by email.
The CCR strongly encourages submissions from people of colour, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and queer people.

Source: Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR)
Posted: May 7, 2014 at 12:51 on SettlementAtWork.org

6th ‘On New Shores’ conference: Immigrant and ethnic minority families ~ Bridging across cultural boundaries

January 28th, 2014

For the 6th time, the University of Guelph is hosting an ‘On New Shores’ conference (search immigrantchildren.ca for information about previous ONS conferences). This year’s theme is Immigrant and ethnic minority families: Bridging across cultural boundaries. The conference will be held in Toronto from October 23 – 24, 2014.

From the call for proposals:

The goal of this conference is to bring together various stakeholders (researchers, community and governmental providers) to collectively examine and discuss issues of children, youth, and families in the context of culture and immigration. Whether individuals and families are new to a country and/or belong to a visible minority group, they share many experiences and challenges.
What lessons can be shared? How can we synergize our efforts to develop more culturally sensitive and culturally appropriate research strategies or programs and services in our respective communities? Discussions of organizational stresses and the strategies used to deal with these issues will also be addressed. Researchers from various disciplines (e.g., psychology, sociology, social work, education) are welcomed. Community service providers and governmental agencies are encouraged to present work on research, effective programs, social issues, and challenges.
UPDATE: Proposal submission deadline is March 15, 2014. All proposals must be submitted to Dr. Susan S. Chuang by email (schuang@uoguelph.ca), and must be accompanied by a submission form.

Toronto panel discussion on immigrant children and families

January 10th, 2014

CERIS, the Ontario Metropolis Centre is hosting a panel discussion on immigrant children and families on Friday, January 31st from 12noon to 1:30pm in Toronto.

From the CERIS site:

“This panel discussion highlights two unique research projects and one local initiative on immigrant children and families. Monica Valencia will present the findings of her participatory research with a group of Latin American immigrant children in Toronto. Focusing on the growing phenomenon of education migration, Eunjung Lee and Marjorie Johnstone will take up the case of South Korean transnational families mobilizing for their children’s education in Canada. Aamna Ashraf will discuss some of the ways Peel Newcomer Strategy Group is working with the settlement sector, local government, and community stakeholders in order for newcomer families to succeed once they arrive in Peel”.

Presenters:
Eunjung Lee, Ph.D., and Marjorie Johnstone, Ph.D. Candidate, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto
Aamna Ashraf, M.Ed., Peel Newcomer Strategy Group
Discussant:
Rupaleem Bhuyan, Ph.D., Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto

Now we are six

November 1st, 2013

immigrantchildren.ca turns six this month. Of course we are reminded of the wonderful A.A. Milne poem and book “Now We Are Six“:

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.