Ten policies to improve child care for immigrant children

New from CLASP  (US-based Center for Law and Social Policy) comes Ten Policies to Improve Access to Quality Child Care for Children in Immigrant Families:

  1. Create and disseminate information packets for new parents in multiple languages that discuss quality child care and help link parents with information and referral agencies.
  2. Fund outreach on quality child care and subsidy eligibility targeted to immigrant families, including grants to community-based organizations with expertise in serving immigration populations.
  3. Use grants, contracts and quality funds to expand the availability of high-quality child care in immigrant communities.
  4. Expand access to Head Start and Early Head Start in child care settings through grants, contracts and eligibility policies.
  5. Translate child care subsidy information and materials and provide dedicated funding and translation and interpretation at the local level.
  6. Increase bilingual staff capacity in subsidy agencies through pay differentials or incentives.
  7. Pay differential child care subsidy payment rates to centers and family child care homes that serve English Language Learners and/or child care providers with a bilingual endorsement.
  8. Create community-based support networks for family, friend and neighbor caregivers in immigrant communities that improve quality of care.
  9. Include measures of cultural and linguistic competence in state quality rating and improvement systems, and provide supports to help programs meet the standards.
  10. Ensure that child care providers receive training to improve their work with culturally and linguistically diverse children and their families and provide support for cultural competency initiatives.

Read the full report on the CLASP site.

Meet Rebecca: A Russian-Jewish immigrant doll

The American Girl series of historical fiction for young adults has been a big success in the US. A similar series runs in Canada, and includes a story about the home children: Orphan at My Door: The Home Child Diary of Victoria Cope, written by Jean Little. The Canadian series is called Our Canadian Girl.

The American Girl series also has accompanying dolls. Launching this weekend, to great anticipation, will be Rebecca, the Russian-Jewish immigrant doll to go along with Jacqueline Dembar Greene’s Meet Rebecca.

According to the May 23rd edition of the Sunday New York Times, a great deal of research went into what a Russian-Jewish immigrant doll should look like, with early comments favourable (Previous American Girl dolls stirred up controversies).

Canada’s top 25 immigrants

Canadian Immigrant Magazine, with financial support from RBC, have announced the winners of the Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants awards. The awards are billed as “a people’s choice award that seeks to uncover and celebrate the untold stories and remarkable achievements of outstanding Canadian immigrants from all walks of life”.

The awards program was introduced in Nov 2008 with a call for nominations from Canadians for “top immigrants” in terms of their contributions to Canada. A panel of immigration judges short-listed 75 and online votes were held via canadianimmigrant.ca. Ten thousand votes were cast. Among the 25 winners is one who works with/on behalf of immigrant children

Elaine Chan, founder of the Chinese Academy. The Chinese Academcy provides Cantonese and Mandarin classes for children from K-12 and Chinese as a 2nd Language in Calgary AB.

Immigration policy consultation by wiki

The Public Policy Wiki is a collaborative project of the Globe and Mail and the Dominion Institute. The Public Policy Wiki is an attempt to bring forward to government a range of views from the general public on matters of public policy. How do they do this? Through an online wiki, of course. The public is invited to “be bold”, participate, contribute and even edit works cited on the wiki.

Among the topics currently on the Public Policy Wiki is a section on immigration policy. There are several resources to review on this page, including pieces written by experts and stakeholders. The wiki poses a series of questions for consideration – and requests for responses – after a reading of the online resources. immigrantchildren.ca readers will note that there are no specific questions related to children and families, but a couple of analysis papers do address immigrant children. Maytree President Ratna Omidvar:

“It is a serious oversight to ignore the settlement needs of immigrant children; however the reality is that these needs remain overlooked in the not inconsiderable resources we spend in settlement programming every year. This oversight is possibly not entirely intentional, but a reflection of jurisdictional arrangements that govern our federation.

“Here is an opportunity for the federal government to reaffirm its role as nation-builder by finding creative ways to overcome jurisdictional barriers. It could, for instance, flow money to provinces and their schools so that immigrant children have assured access to English language training, sports and cultural activities. There are no better integration ambassadors for immigrant parents than their own children, who by participating in team sports and cultural activities are guaranteed to bring their parents to the rink.

“Imagine, children playing hockey, or soccer or even cricket together and parents watching and cheering them along! Here is how we can build our nation”.

Rudyard Griffiths, co-founder of the Dominion Institute:

“…the federal government should also put special emphasis on second language training for school-age children, particularly in the country’s major cities.

“In Toronto, the city that attracts the majority of newcomers to Canada, the percentage of elementary schools with English-as-a-second-language instructors has declined from 41 to 29 percent in the last decade while the number of students requiring such instruction has doubled. Young people from non- French- or English-speaking countries desperately need additional support to master French and/or English. The federal government should find ways to work with the provinces to get more funding for language instruction into urban classroom to relieve overburdened ESL instructors”.

Mathew Ingram, Communities Editor at the Globe hopes the Public Policy Wiki is working towards a ‘Two Million Minds’ “open, crowd-powered forum” that will have legitimacy on the public policy landscape. Deadline for comments is June 1. Responses from this online forum will be collated and submitted to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Let’s participate and ensure that the issues, challenges and needs of immigrant and refugee children and their families are voiced in the forum. Visit the Public Policy Wiki on immigration policy here.

More than words: Supporting 2nd language acquisition in young immigrant children

Interesting story out of Penn State University where researchers worked with preschool programs to help them identify strategies to support 2nd language learning in very young immigrant children.

The children were given cameras and asked to take photos of their world outside of their classrooms. Then, the children talked about the pictures they had taken with their teachers. Researchers cite improved teacher and child interactions and stronger language and vocabulary development in the children. 

From the news story:

“After the two years and final transcript comparisons were completed, the study unexpectedly found that learning English was not an obstacle to the oral expression of immigrant preschool children when compared to their native-born classmates. In fact, once invited into conversation through photo elicitation, the stories of reportedly “quiet” immigrant children proved as long as the others. And there was no statistical difference in conversational skills when American-born and immigrant children were compared and, in fact, the immigrant language complexity became superior to the native-born children.

The findings of the study also provided a caution for the teachers in the preschool. ‘The teachers have to listen to the kids,…We found the teachers had preconceived notions or myths about the children. The photo exercises changed that and they learned a great deal about the child’s world. The project turned out to be a powerful invitation for all the children to converse and they provided a place for the immigrant voice to be heard’.

Everybody’s children, Toronto film event

CERIS (Joint Centre of Excellence for Research in Immigration Studies) hosts a screening of the National Film Board documentary, Everybody’s Children (directed by Monika Delmos, produced by Anita Lee) on Friday, May 29/09, 12pm-2pm at the CERIS office in Toronto.

From the flyer: A year in the lives of two African youth seeking asylum in Ontario arrive under age and alone, often traumatized and seeking asylum in a country completely alien to their own. … these unaccompanied refugee minors have surprisingly no government system in place for their care after arriving. This documentary is a cinematic portrait of a year in the life.

Dr. Francis Hare, CERIS Domain Leader, Family, Children and Youth, will moderate a forum on unaccompanied children with Anne Woolger-Bell, Matthew House. 

RSVP to ceris.reception@utoronto.ca or call 416-946-3110.

Using international literature to build intercultural understanding: The IBBY Conference

“Children’s Books: Where Worlds Meet” is the theme for the 8th International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) conference, to be held in St. Charles, Illinois Oct 2-4/09.

From the conference brochure: “Stimulating and thought-provoking book discussions and small group sessions will provide opportunities to network with concerned professionals and to think about issues related to the use of international literature to build intercultural understanding”.

Featured at the conference will be An Imaginary Library: Children’s Books That Don’t Exist (Yet). Seventy-two artists from over 30 countries create book covers for books not (yet) in existence. The exhibit invites delegates to consider what the book content might be from the cover. Fun!

Among the speakers is Canada’s Patsy Aldana, president of IBBY, founder of Groundwood Books and on the founding board of The Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

‘Waiting for my children’ art exhibit

Settlement Arts, a new Toronto-based organization established to raise awareness and increase education on immigration and settlement issues presents their first exhibit “Waiting for My Children”, a collaboration between Curator Lisa Wyndels, Photographer Anna  Hill and Editor, Sally Dundas.

From the description:

There are parents in our community who are forced to wait for many years to be joined by their children, after they first arrived in Canada as immigrants or refugees.

The impact of the separation of children from parents is profound, and increasingly so as the period of waiting becomes prolonged.  A period of separation of many years creates risks of children being exposed to multiple harms, including severe psychological damage. We know of instances of depression, suicide attempt, and even death.  Children who arrive in Canada after years of separation from a parent are often at real risk of not integrating well, either into family or into society.

The show runs from May 13-23 at 1080 Queen St. W. For more info, visit the website.

Diversity fund, Children’s Aid Foundation

Announced today the Children’s Aid Foundation, in partnership with RBC, has launched a Diversity Fund that will provide social service agencies with resources to support their work with a diverse population. Information will be made available on such topics as helping families dealing with Canadian winters and coping with trauma and post-traumatic stress for refugee families, as two examples. 

Read the news release.

Mirrors, windows & doors: Multicultural children’s literature

Recently released text: Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children’s Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors.

From the foreward:

“Children’s literature is a contested terrain, as is multicultural education. Taken together, they pose a formidable challenge to both classroom teachers and academics. Rather than deny the inherent conflicts in the field, in (the text), Maria Jose Botelho and Masha Kabakow Rudman confront, deconstruct, and reconstruct these terrains by proposing a reframing of the field. Surely all of us – children, teachers, and academics – can benefit from this more expansive understanding of what it means to read books”.

Sonia Nieto.

Canadian connection: co-author Maria Jose Botelho was with the University of Toronto. Lots of Canadian references in the text, as well as Canadian context. How refreshing!

Let’s discuss.

Senate report on early learning and child care in Canada

Following the release of the OECD report Starting Strong II (Sept 2006) the Senate of Canada requested its Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology to examine the state of early learning and child care in Canada and report on the finding of the OECD that found Canada last in industrialized nations in terms of their funding and commitment to supporting the early years of children in Canada.

immigrantchildren.ca is pleased that the April 2009 Senate Report, Early Childhood Education and Care: Next Steps examined the importance of high quality early learning and care for newcomer families and young children, however briefly, including:

  • A paragraph on pg. 61 on “Immigrants and Refugees” about the child care component of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program.
  • In the section on accessibility, it is recognized that: “immigrant children may experience additional barriers if local child care programming is not culturally relevant or delivered in a familiar language“.

The committee made several recommendations in its report, including that the Prime Minister appoint a Minister of State of Children and Youth; that the Minister for Human Resources and Social Development appoint a National Advisory Council on Children, to advise the Minister of State for Children and Youth and through the Minister of State, other Ministers on how best to support parents and to advance quality early learning and child care (calling for the Council to include Parliamentarians, a range of stakeholders, parents and appropriate representation from Aboriginal communities).

immigrantchildren.ca hopes that, should the Government of Canada respond favourably and strike a Council that it will ensure that immigrant and refugee children’s interests will be addressed and that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism serve on the Council. And, given Minister Kenney’s recent remarks on the need for increased attention to immigrant children, we’ve little doubt to the importance of his inclusion. 

The Government of Canada, through the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, must respond to the Senate report within 150 days of the tabling of the report. Watch this space for responses.

Maclean’s interview with Minister Jason Kenney

Last week’s Maclean’s featured an interview with federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, the Honoourable Jason Kenney.

Kenney reiterated his position favouring interculturalism over multiculturalism and suggests that 2nd generation immigrants – the children of immigrants – are particularly vulnerable to cultural segregation. Quoting Tony Blair, Kenney says “…in our liberal society everyone has a right to be different but a duty to integrate“.

The editorial this week responds to Kenney’s comments in “Our weak identity isn’t an immigration problem“.

Related posts on immigrantchildren.ca: