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?

Defining cultural competence in early learning settings

It is increasingly being recognized that practitioners and evaluators using Quality Rating Improvement Services (QRIS) in early child development settings, must address the growing diversity of the families and children served in these settings.

The US-based National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has created the Quality Benchmark for Cultural Competence Project (QBCCP) in order to develop a tool to assess the level of competence in programs participating in a QRIS. Driving the process was the fundamental belief that “for the optimal development and learning of all children, educators must accept the legitimacy of children’s home langauge, respect … the home culture, and promote and encourage the active involvement and support of all families, including the extended and nontraditional family units” (NAEYC 1995, 2).

Eight concepts of cultural competenece:

1. Acknowledge that children are nested in families and communities with unique strengths. Recognize and mitigate the tension between the early childhood profession’s perceptions of the child as the center of the work versus the family as the center of the work.

2. Build on and identify the strengths and shared goals between the profession and families and recognize commonalities in order to meet these goals.

3. Understand and authentically incorporate the traditions and history of the program participants and their impacts on child­ rearing practices.

4. Actively support each child’s development within the family as complex and culturally­ driven ongoing experiences.

5. Recognize and demonstrate awareness that individuals’ and institutions’ practices are embedded in culture.

6. Ensure that decisions and policies regarding all aspects of a program embrace and respect participants’ language, values, attitudes, beliefs and approaches to learning.

7. Ensure that policies and practices build upon the home languages and dialects of the children, families and staff in programs and support the preservation of home languages.

For more information, visit the NAEYC website.

Burka Barbie

The National Post‘s Barbara Kay has reviewed the Burka Barbie and asks why the world’s most famous fashion doll is wearing a burka, a “symbol of oppression”. From the provocative article:

“In the eyes of the majority who do consider both dolls and guns natural objects of play, however, there should be no moral distinction between Burka Barbie and a putative G.I. Joe figure in a suicide vest for essentially they both represent a medieval Islamist worldview that flies in the face of the West’s most cherished values: equality of men and women and respect for human life, including one’s own”.

Read the column here.

Welcoming Communities Seminar, Ottawa

Metropolis Canada presents a seminar on Welcoming Communities on Jan 25/10 in Ottawa at Library and Archives Canada. The seminar is free, but an RSVP is required to project-metropolis@cic.gc.ca by January 11, 2010.

The seminar will address how Canadian communities can be more welcoming. From the announcement:

“In the years to come, the growth in multiculturalism will have a marked effect on the major urban centres of Vancouver, Montréal and Toronto (where within the next 10 years, 50% of the population will be visible minorities). The effects will also be felt in the smallest municipalities and in remote areas. Because social integration must be a two-way process, it requires an ongoing willingness on the part of both immigrants and the Canadian-born population to adapt. In order for this process to be successful, and for society to be strengthened as a result, Canada’s communities must be truly welcoming. Throughout the course of the day, this collective mission will be borne in mind as we attempt to clarify what “welcoming community” means. The notion of welcoming community will be examined under four themes: 1) the degree of which federal, provincial and municipal governments are proactive; 2) the role of non-governmental organizations; 3) the urban/rural divide; and 4) Francophone and Anglophone minority language communities”.

For more info, including registration, visit the Metropolis Canada website.