Papers: Stories of undocumented youth

Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth tells the story of the approximately 2 million children in the United States who are living “without legal status”, i.e., without “papers”.

These children arrive on American shores not by choice, but because their parents take them there for what they hope will be a better future. Many arrive as babies and small children and do not realize they are living precariously until they turn 18 and attempt to join the labour force, attend college or university or get a driver’s license – all of which require a social security card, an ID reserved for US citizens. These children, many who know no other country and often, language, are educated in US schools, hold US values and face a perilous future without “papers”.

My thanks to Graham Street Productions, for sending me a copy of the DVD  to review.

Papers follows five undocumented youth and tells their stories with the backdrop of the DREAM Act movement. The DREAM Act, a bipartisan initiative developed by Sen. Orin Hatch [R-UT] and Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL], is a progressive policy response to the issue – with one caveat for the use of the word ‘alien’ in the acronym DREAM – ‘Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act’. The DREAM Act would provide “qualifying undocumented youth” eligibility to enter into a conditional path to full citizenship (for example, requiring youth to complete a college degree or give two years of military service prior to applying for citizenship).

Graham Street Productions, who worked with El Grupo Juvenil (the “Papers” youth crew) produced this inspiring documentary. It opens with a montage of demonstrations, both for and against immigration. There are some beautiful moments of peaceful marching and some harsh displays of hatred. Immigration – legal and otherwise – is a hotly debated issue in the US as it is here in Canada.

The documentary includes commentary from civil rights leaders, politicians, academics and researchers.  A unique parallel story links the LGBTQ movement with the immigration rights movement. One of the youth, Jorge, is both gay and undocumented. From the press release:

They realize that there is extraordinary power in their stories and in telling the truth. The boldness of it inspires us. By coming out as undocumented, they risk arrest, detention, and deportation. By coming out as queer, they risk being ostracized from their families, their churches, their cultures of origin and their communities. But in talking with these courageous young people, it is obvious that they are not going to stop being public about who they are. In some ways the most vulnerable, they are also the most brave. They, more than anyone, know the power of “coming out” and recognize that going public is the way to changes peoples’ hearts and minds.

It is a moving and compelling documentary that has been received with much acclaim. Watch the trailer here. Follow Papersthemovie on twitter at @papersthemovie. Order a copy of the DVD here.

Call for papers: Well-being of young Black immigrant and refugee children, birth to age 10

Immigration Policy Institute‘s (MPI) National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy has issued a call for papers on the health, well-being and development of young children in Black immigrant and refugee families in their first decade of life – birth to age 10.

Papers are invited from young and established scholars that address research and policy issues related to:

Immigration and settlement patterns


Language acquisition


Parental and family resources.

Papers are welcome that document and examine how Black immigrant and refugee children are faring in the US as well as papers that offer international comparisons of children in Canada, the UK and Europe.

AMSSA Newcomer Child Information Exchange e-Bulletin: Focus on refugee children

The October 2010 ANCIE (AMSSA Newcomer Child Information Exchange) is devoted to refugee children. The e-Bulletin examines types of refugees in Canada, the challenges faced by refugee families, and refugee children and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The e-Bulletin contains a case study, suggests some useful resources and offers strategies for working with refugee children.

ANCIE has produced 4 e-Bulletins now, including the October issue:

March ~ Trends in migration of children in BC

May ~ English Language Learners

July ~ Health and Wellness of Newcomer Children

Downnload the PDF e-Bulletins from the ANCIE website.

Welcoming newcomer children

Dr. Judith A. Colbert has recently launched the book “Welcoming Newcomer Children: The Settlement of Young Immigrants and Refugees”.

In her book, Dr. Colbert proposes ten steps to quality for newcomer child care. The book asks caregivers to consider the unique settlement needs of immigrant and refugee children; draws on international research; examines values and beliefs on child care from non-Western points of view; and suggests strategies for working with newly arrived immigrant and refugee children, from birth to Kindergarten age. to celebrate its 3rd anniversary has a birthday coming up! On November 3, 2010, the blog turns three!  And, like most three-year-olds, we like to celebrate with presents! <Update Nov 5th: The only one to enter the contest – DoreenatDMS – wins a copy of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. The other gifts will be presented to the Kitchener Multicultural Centre>.

To reward readers who have participated on the blog, I’m announcing a series of prizes. If you have ever left a comment on this blog and if you can answer 3 questions on immigration and settlement in Canada, three of you will be randomly selected to win one of the following gifts.

The Gifts

1. A copy of a soon to be published book by consultant Dr. Judith Colbert, entitled Welcoming Newcomer Children: The Settlement Needs of Young Immigrants and Refugees”.

2. A copy of Shaun Tan’s “The Arrival”, a graphic picture book for adults and children about a family’s migration journey (see my post on this outstanding book here).

3. Memorabilia from Pier 21, Canada’s Immigration Museum. Items vary from books, bags and other ephemera.

Eligibility – 3 criteria to meet:

1. You must have posted a comment somewhere on the blog. NB This means you still have time to be eligible. Get your comments in!

2. You must identify (by full name, government and party affiliation) the last 3 federal ministers of immigration up to, but not including the current Minister, The Honourable Jason Kenney.

3. Finally, name one other website, blog or other social media tool that examines, addresses, advocates for or supports newcomer children and families in Canada.

The contest has now officially launched ~ leave your answers by comment here and be sure you’ve got a comment somewhere else too. The winner will be determined by random draw and announced by end of Nov 5th. All prizes will be shipped by Canada Post. In the event there are no winners, prizes will be donated to the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre.

Child migrants in the global city: Ryerson’s immigration conference, Oct 29-31st

Ryerson’s upcoming conference – and launch pad for the Ryerson Institute on Immigration and Settlement, RIIS, has released the program for its inaugural conference: Migration and the Global City. is very pleased to see so many sessions devoted to immigrant child, youth and family issues. Excerpts below from the program:

Oct 29th, 5-7pm Poster Sessions ~ The Settlement Of refugee youth: A Literature review, Charity Davy, University of Western Ontario

Refugee youths are often perceived as unwell because of the trauma experienced in their home country yet many refugee youths successfully transition to their host country with astounding resilience, motivation and hope. This study aims to explore the knowledge base of the pre-arrival, arrival, and resettlement phases of youth refugees to gain an understanding of successful settlement processes.

Oct 30th, Morning sessions ~ Experiences of Asylum seekers in Montreal: Need for childcare services, Gillian Morantz

In-depth interviews about post-migratory experiences were conducted with 33 dyads of parent and child asylum seekers attending a pediatric hospital in Montreal. Their narratives reveal that the lack of access to affordable childcare services profoundly impacts on their ability to integrate into their host society. This lacuna in services, particularly in the case of single mothers, affects their employability, language acquisition and reconstruction of social networks. Although 7$ a day childcare services are available throughout Quebec, asylum seekers do not qualify for this program. A comparison of childcare policies and services for asylum seekers is made with other regions of Canada and other western countries, and policy implications are discussed.

Schools and borders: Frameworks for access to schooling for precarious status students, Francisco Villegas, OISE/UT

Although the Ontario Education Act ensures the ability of students with precarious immigration status to attend Ontario schools, many still find themselves excluded on the basis of their immigration status. School districts, including those in Toronto have largely ignored this policy and have effectively taken on the role of immigration enforcement  by asking for students’ immigration documentation prior to enrolling them. While there has been a long-standing movement attempting to ensure access to schooling for precarious status students, such students have been conceptualized under different frameworks of access, membership and citizenship. The purpose of this paper is to examine the ways in which discourses affect the ability of precarious status students to receive schooling, as well as the material consequences of immigration precarity on affected individuals.

Oct 30th ~ Asylum denied: Exploring the reasons why some refugee children are deported, Jacqueline Lapeyre-MacNeil, Ryerson University

This project will explore the factors that come into play in the assessment of a refugee claim put forth by unaccompanied children when arriving in Canada, and will focus particularly on children who are denied asylum. Designed as an exploratory research, the study will look into the procedure in place to screen those applications, in an attempt to determine the key criteria used to assess who stays and who gets deported.  Because little research has been done to date on this particular aspect of the process, the potential benefits of this project will be to identify the gaps in the existing protocol, especially in terms of addressing the best interests of the child, as determined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Access to services for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Canada, Chloe Dumouchel-Fournier, Ryerson University

Through semi-structures interviews with service providers in these two provinces, this research analyzes the service delivery to unaccompanied minors in Quebec and Ontario. In addition to being major receivers of asylum seekers, these two provinces were chosen in part because the implementation of the 1991 Canada-Quebec Accord led to major differences in service delivery to unaccompanied minors between Ontario and Quebec.

Separated children: Their status, experiences and unique needs in the Canadian context, Alaina Johnston, Ryerson University

This research focuses on children who arrived in Canada as separated children and who were placed in the care and custody of the Children’s Aid Society of Peel, the child welfare organization west of Toronto which includes Pearson International Airport.

Things Ontario could learn from other jurisdictions in assisting separated children, Francis Hare, Ryerson University

Previous research on services for separated children/unaccompanied minors in the care of the Ontario child welfare system highlighted areas in which the experience of other jurisdictions could offer guidance to Ontario on how to improve the services it offers.  Youth without status who wish to continue into post-secondary education pay “international student” fees, substantially higher than those paid by Canadian citizens or residents. In the US, “The DREAM Act” may provide a way to address this issue. Ontario staff often find themselves in need of training on issues related to immigration status issues for youth in care. SARIMM in Quebec regularly conducted such training sessions for others. Non-status youth in Ontario need social support as well as legal representation, another service found in Quebec. Finally, ideas for assisting Ontario youth make the transition to citizenship may be found in US legislation called the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.

Oct 31st ~ The Settlement of young children: The future of the global city, Judith Colbert, Consultant

The distinctive settlement needs of young newcomer children have not been fully recognized, although cross-cultural psychologists tell us that acculturation begins in infancy (and before), and data, such as EDI scores, indicate that many kindergarten children who are second language learners are disadvantaged. The benefits of quality child care and early intervention have been well-researched, but much remains to be learned about their potential as vehicles for settlement support. Progress is slow in part because programs continue to focus on Western ideas of development and childrearing and strive to meet culturally inappropriate indicators of quality. Initiatives that lead to positive futures for both young newcomers and the global city are good public policy. More work by governments, academics and community-based organizations is needed to identify settlement issues and optimum practices, develop and implement new programs, and ensure that current programs address the settlement needs of young children more effectively.

Geography and mental health: Why region of resettlement affects the mental health risk of immigrant children in Canada, Morton Beiser, Ryerson University

Data from the New Canadian Children and Youth Study (NCCYS) show that immigrant children living in Toronto and Montreal have higher levels of emotional problems than their counterparts living in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.  This presentation demonstrates that cross-country differences in both immigrant personal attributes (language proficiency) and the welcome accorded immigrant families help explain differential mental health risk.

Parents’ educational expectations and child outcomes of Hong Kong Chinese, Mainland Chinese and Filipino children in Canada, Patrizia Albanese, Ryerson University

Using New Canadian Children and Youth Survey (NCCYS) data we compare the school performance of Hong Kong (HK) Chinese children, children from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and Filipino children. We look at the relationship between parental human capital and children’s school performance. We … focus on whether high parental expectations and immigrant children’s ‘superior academic performance’ at school results in immigrant children “adapting well.” This paper will use NCCYS data to assess the mental health impact of parental educational expectations on immigrant boys and girls.

Ethnic identity and discrimination among children, Jane Friesen, Simon Fraser University

We engaged almost 400 Canadian children aged five through eight years in a series of activities that draw from both social psychology and experimental economics, and are designed to reveal patterns of ethnic stereotyping, self-identification and discrimination with respect to three ethnically phenotypic categories (white, East Asian, and South Asian).  We find that children from the dominant white group have the most favorable evaluations of and identify most strongly with the white ethnic category.  Minority East Asian children tend to associate themselves with the dominant white category as well as with East Asians. These social identities are reflected in children’s altruistic behaviour – white children show clear pro-white bias, but East Asian children do not discriminate.

Attributed causality among child abuse victims in the Tamil and Punjabi communities, Vappu Tyyskä, Ryerson University

The results presented in this paper come from a larger study of family violence in the Punjabi and Tamil communities in Toronto, conducted in 2007-2008, based on interviews with adults who were subjected to abuse as children.The participants were asked about their experiences of family violence; patterns of abuse before and after immigration; and about their attribution of the causes of abuse. The results will be outlined, with a focus on attributed causality by the victims, and with attention to gender.

Honour killings and intergenerational relations in South Asian families, Muzzammil Beelut, Ryerson University

Since 2002 there have been 13 reported honour killings in Canada. This presentation seeks to understand reasons behind honour killings.  Since an honour killing is an extreme form of violence, this presentation examines the roots of intergenerational conflict in South Asian families with the hope of ceasing the problem from the start. Also, a media analysis is conducted of the Toronto Star and the National Post to determine how the media dealt with killing of Aqsa Parvez, a 16-year-old Pakistani woman who was killed by her father in 2007. Finally, policy recommendations are offered as to how honour killings can be prevented from happening in Canada.

To review the complete program, visit the RISS website.

Ethical challenges inherent in meeting mental health needs of immigrant children and youth, Toronto conference

Sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Thistletown Regional Centre, a multi-service mental health treatment centre for children, youth and families, is hosting a conference Nov 17-18, 2010 in the McDonald Block, Ontario government building complex, downtown Toronto.

What’s the conference about?

As one of the first events of this nature, the conference aims to identify/address different aspects of a unique and complex component of children’s mental health service provision. It will bring together prominent speakers, and service providers and users to present, in an open dialogue, their thinking on an area of critical concern, and share their experience on how their current values, convictions, and/or expectations are implemented in the service provision/use. It is expected that the conference will facilitate a better understanding of the diverse shape of ethical dilemmas in the children’s mental health field. In addition to providing an opportunity to learn from each other, the conference will contribute towards strengthening our services, as well as provide a foundation for our further work in modeling ethical-decision making with immigrant children, youth, their families and communities” (Source: Conference description).

Who should attend?

Mental health professionals, social workers, speech and language pathologists, PTs and OTs, policy makers, academics and researchers, settlement workers,  ethno-racial community leaders, and anyone with an interest in mental health services for newcomer children, youth and their families are welcome to participate.

For more information on the conference, including speaker bios, see this page. To register, visit here.

Childminding program CMAS launches new website

CMAS – Childminding Monitoring and Advisory Support – is the organization funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to monitor the child care component of the LINC program (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada). CMAS has launched a revamped website, with a new tag line

CMAS is committed to being a leader in the care of newcomer children through ongoing support and promotion of high quality newcomer child care services”.

Highlights from the 4th On New Shores conference ~ “Resilience of immigrants: Coping with stress in various cultural contexts”

I attended the 4th “On New Shores” conference at the University of Guelph, Ontario. Over two days (Sept 30-Oct 1, 2010), delegates were fortunate to hear and participate in presentations from a good range of academics and practitioners on the topic of resiliency in the immigrant population. Here are just a few highlights from the two days.

First, I love it when conference organizers start their conferences with clearly articulated goals: Susan Chuang, Associate Professor in the Family Relations and Applied Nutrition department, opened the conference with a list of 3 simple and do-able goals:

1. Communicating – bringing together practitioners, academics, researchers, policy makers, front-line settlement workers in one space to speak to and learn from each other.
2. Sharing ideas – issue and problem-solving ideas, suggestions, examples and experiences of delegates.
3. Promoting collaboration.

Also impressive was the Guelph Mayor in her opening welcome to delegates. Karen Farbridge is a progressive mayor and is proud of her city of Guelph, among the top five destinations to receive immigrants, citing about 20% of Guelph’s population as newcomers. Mayor Farbridge was delighted to share with us that among the recipients of the Ontario Newcomer Champion Awards, are Guelph area residents.

A special dedication was made for the late Dr. Tom Luster, known widely for his work on the “Lost Boys of Sudan”. Two colleagues and a grad student from Michigan State University paid a touching tribute to Tom. The student told us that during her work with Tom, she was asked how many other students he supervised. She said she was taken aback by the question, because, as she said: “I felt like I was Tom’s only student!” Such was his dedication, support and care for the people he worked with. I met Tom at the 2007 On New Shores conference and wish I spent more time talking to him.

Next, Dr. Michael Ungar spoke on the conference theme “The Social Ecology of Resilience: Culture, Context, Resources, and Meaning”. Ungar is a Dalhousie professor, social worker, and author of several books – popular and academic, including “We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids”; “Too Safe for Their Own Good”; “Playing at Being Bad: The Hidden Resilience of Troubled Teens”.  His newest text (2011) is “Counseling in Challenging Contexts: Working with Individuals and Families Across Clinical and Cultural Settings”.

Dr. Ungar’s talk was an introduction to theories of resilience. Ungar set the stage for the conference, and also for his closing keynote on day two where he spoke on the application of such theories, – with great insight, a snazzy ppt and a quick wit. It was a pleasure to be present for his talks. In this first session, on theories, Ungar spoke on the history of the study of resiliency and what was previously called “the invulnerable child”. But, for Ungar, “nurture trumps nature” (attributed to Rutter) and he spoke about adaptive behaviours to adverse conditions and/or events. Ungar’s definition of resiliency:

“In the context of exposure to significant adversity, resiliency is both the capacity of individuals to navigate their way to the psychological, social and cultural and physical resources that sustain their wellbeing, and their capacity individually and collectively to negotiate for these resources to be provided and experienced in culturally meaningful ways”.

Ungar asked delegates to consider the three key pieces of this definition: navigation, negotiation and culturally meaningful. These three themes resonated throughout the conference sessions.

I was intrigued by a comment in one of the sessions I attended by Reza Shahbazi of the New Canadians’ Centre of Excellence Inc., Windsor, Ontario. Shahbazi spoke about what it means to be a Canadian and that the definition of “Canadian” is “a moving marker”. Newcomers seem to be perpetually chasing the definition. I wonder too how immigration and multiculturalism policy keep that marker moving.

In her session, independent Consultant, Dr. Judith Colbert (principal author of the LINC Childminding guidelines) shared news of her upcoming book “Welcoming Newcomer Children: The Settlement Needs of Young Immigrants and Refugees”. Colbert asked delegates to consider the specific needs of the very young newcomer child. While much attention, research, policy responses and discussion can be found on immigrant youth, children from birth to age six garner less attention. looks forward to the book and to the launch of an accompanying website, TBA.

At the end of a long day one, delegates were treated to a warm and information rich presentation by Sarah Liddell of Aisling Discoveries Child and Family Centre. Liddell’s presentation was on the Ready, Set, Go! school readiness program, targeted to newcomer children and families. Particularly interesting and impressive was that the program not only works with newcomer children to understand what to expect in school, Ready, Set, Go! welcomes parents and extended family members to participate in a parallel program, providing families with important information and strategies for navigation and negotiation.

Day two brought back Dr. Michael Ungar who generously shared stories (and videos) about the families and youth he has worked with, clearly demonstrating the applicability of his theory of resiliency.

Thanks to Dr. Susan Chuang for organizing the conference (and for the best conference swag ever!) and a special thanks to her undergraduate and graduate students who were always available to cheerfully assist delegates. Applause.

Hold the date – the 5th On New Shores will be held September 27-28, 2012.

Cultural influences on language and literacy

Coming soon, a ZERO TO THREE edited collection of essays on language and literacy development in the very young child, entitled Cradling Literacy. ZERO TO THREE is making available now one of the chapters, “Cultural influences on early language and literacy teaching practices” (PDF), by Rebecca Parlakian, ZERO TO THREE and Sylviay Sanchez, George Mason University. From the announcement:

“Children learn to communicate in the context of their home culture. Beginning at birth, children use their home language and culturally accepted communication styles to connect with others in a meaningful way, forming the secure relationships that are so intrinsic to healthy development. For the early childhood teacher, it is important to establish supportive, respectful relationships as well-with both families and children. These connections help teachers learn more about the strengths, needs, and culture of every child in their care. Collaborative relationships with families also provide teachers with the information they need to support children’s individual language and literacy development. By creating a richly diverse and welcoming environment, by remaining aware of their own cultural beliefs (and biases), and by identifying a variety of teaching strategies to share the magic of print and language, early childhood teachers can spark a lifelong love of reading in the children they care for”.

Related resource (and a Canadian one too!):

Back to school: Multilingual parent tip sheets from People for Education

People for Education has a series of useful parent tip sheets, in several languages, on a variety of topics related to starting school.

Topics include:

Starting school can be scary for kids and parents ~ Tips to help parents prepare their children for Kindergarten and Grade 1.

What is the role of the Ministry of Education, school boards, schools, teachers and school councils? Who does what.

Parent-teacher interviews ~ How to make the best use of time with your child’s teacher.

Homework help ~ How to support your child in their homework.

Health and physical education and activity ~ Physical, emotional and mental health as key predictors of future quality of life.

High School courses and choices ~ Making the right decisions.

Solving problems at school ~ Tips for parents and children if problems arise at school.

Special Ed ~ All about special education programs for children with challenges and/or learning disAbilities.

EQAO ~ What are the EQAO tests? How can parents help prepare their children?

Tip sheets are currently available in the following languages:

Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu.

Family Support Institute Ontario conference

The Family Support Institute Ontario will be hosting a conference and pre-conference session (on parent engagement) from Nov 17-20, 2010 in Toronto. Two sessions are focused on newcomer children and families:

Anti Bias Literacy Environments

In this workshop we will look at creating anti bias literacy environments that promote the concept of empathy. Supporting a child’s transition from home language over to English language learning will also be a focus of this workshop. Ideas for creating anti bias literacy activities will also be included through early authoring, book nook transformations and parent involvement. Small group brainstorming will identify challenges that we face and the successes that we share. A portion of the workshop will also be devoted to common myths around English language learners, and some mainstream ideas around home language preservation and the best practices in promoting bilingualism. Presenter: Alka Burman, Early Literacy Specialist, Region of Peel.

Listening to Families: Reframing Services

This interactive workshop will give participants an overview of the Listening to Families: Reframing Services project, which is premised on our belief that if service providers knew the rich and complex stories of the families they serve, they could reach out to more families who are not benefiting from their services, and increase the effectiveness of their work for families they already serve. Examples of family narratives will be shared with participants and a comprehensive bibliography will also be provided. Presenters: Mehru Ali, Patricia Corson and Elaine Frankel, Ryerson University. (Source: conference program).

For more info, visit the conference webpage or email