Integrating immigrant children: What are the indicators?

I’m reading Immigration and integration in Canada in the twenty-first century, a McGill-Queen’s University and Metropolis publication edited by John Biles, Meyer Burstein and James Frideres (2008).

In the chapter Creating an Inclusive Society, author Frideres talks about the need for accurate tools and indicators to measure immigrant integration. In reviewing a list he has developed, I note that immigrant children are invisible.

Frideres lists 3 categories: structural, community and individual. I’ll list a few of his indicators in each category and, underneath each section, suggest a few in the same category that might be applicable to children. (NB “children” on this site means those from birth to age eight). Please jump on in and help me build a comprehensive list!

STRUCTURAL

  • Quality of services immigrants receive (e.g., health care, education)
  • Role of media in portraying immigrants and migration
  • Use of social security, welfare and other social policy instruments
  • Systemic integration
  • Policies and programs that support fledgling immigrant communities and/or respond to their distinct needs and experiences (e.g., language programs)
  • Program evaluation (e.g., host programs).

Structural indicators for immigrant children: Quality of services fits for children too, I’d want to include, along with health care, early education, child care, recreation and community programs. And since children live in families, family support programs and services would also be specified, e.g., language instruction programs for parents with parallel programs for children: for the youngest, quality child care but for children 4 and up, programming can and should include language and settlement. These all fit in the indicator  “Policies and programs that support fledgling immigrant communities and/or respond to their distinct needs and experiences”. Immigrant and refugee children have very distinct needs and experiences apart from their parents and other adult family members. Early learning, child care, family resource and support programs can be evaluated with regard to their responsiveness to newcomer children and families.

COMMUNITY

  • Civic participation, including:
  • knowledge about civic processes
  • host community responsibility for promoting citizenship
  • host community providing opportunities for immigrants
  • Social climate of host community with regard to immigrants
  • Degree of coordination of federal policies and programs
  • Extent of partnership programs among various stakeholders.

Community integration for immigrant children: Just as immigrant children need to be understood in the context of their families, newcomer families must be understood in the context of their communities. Many of the above indicators would, again, fit for children, so degree of coordination of federal policies and programs (e.g., LINC programs and childminding programs), partnerships among various stakeholders (e.g., settlement workers in schools and library settlement partnerships). The indicator “social climate of host community” is important here. Are newcomer children welcomed in the neighbourhood park, local community centre, etc.? As for “civic engagement”, school-age children are capable of grasping some basics in this area and participate in community activities that can be framed as civic engagement, i.e., Girl Guides, 4H clubs, etc.

INDIVIDUAL

  • Number of associations in which the individual is involved (all types):
  • intensity of involvement
  • duration of involvement
  • Immigrant understanding of Canadian institutional structure
  • Host/immigrant community members feeling of security and belonging
  • Individual levels of prejudice/discrimination
  • Knowledge (formal and informal) of one of the official languages
  • Public (both immigrant and native-born) attitudes – general and specific
  • Number of contacts.

Individual integration of immigrant children: The above indicators clearly apply to adult integration but we can, for example, modify “understanding of Canadian institutional structure” to ability to navigate the school-yard, to understand expectations of the child’s new school setting, etc. Knowledge – and use – of an official language is also a fit for children.

Can you suggest other indicators that reflect how (well) immigrant children integrate?

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