Four questions for … social worker, facilitator and diversity consultant Ilaneet Goren

I asked social worker, facilitator and diversity consultant Ilaneet Goren:

What’s the effect of racism, discrimination, and stereotyping on newcomer children (birth to age eight)?

I am part of a team of equity educators who facilitate diversity programs for children and youth in school boards across Ontario. While every school and community is unique in terms of their experience with immigration, when it comes to inclusion and well-being, the barriers newcomer children face are similar across the board. Even in communities where resources and supports are readily available, there is no immunity to implicit bias, prejudice, and anti-immigrant sentiments in the current political climate that emboldens hateful nationalist ideologies. Children learn and absorb messages from the adult world around them and, when anti-immigrant attitudes become the norm, it teaches all children that taunting someone for having an accent or for wearing a hijab is ‘okay’.

In my experience as a social worker – and speaking as a two-time immigrant who first emigrated at the age of 10 – newcomer children want to belong, more than anything else. They want to feel a part of their school community. They want to be and feel Canadian. While they are aware of their differences in terms of ethnicity, language, culture, or faith, they are more interested in the commonalities that help them connect to their classmates and identify them as friends. In fact, the speed with which newcomer children adapt to their new environment and culture never ceases to amaze us: it is a testament to their amazing resiliency and potential which we, as educators, must nurture.

Inside the school as outside of it, prejudice, bias and discrimination are most often expressed in implicit and unspoken ways. Negative and belittling attitudes, deficit-based thinking, or a lack of understanding that equity doesn’t mean equality and that some newcomer children may need specific supports in order to integrate into school are commonplace in all environments. Biased thinking occurs when newcomer children are automatically placed in a lower grade, or when students facing language barriers are not afforded the extra time they need to complete an assignment because ‘everyone needs to be treated equally.’

When we talk to students about their school climate the conversation often reveals the lack of safety experienced by students who are on the receiving end of bullying and stereotyping because of their identity. The bystander effect is also revealed: their peers are unwilling to intervene when they witness bullying. These conversations can be challenging for newcomer students who may not have the confidence or the language to talk about their experiences of exclusion, or may not know about – or trust – the supports available to them.

When students don’t feel safe, they can’t learn. A lack of safety affects their stress levels and well-being. While student mental health is now part of the conversation in many schools, there is still much work to be done to address the link between bullying, racism, and student mental health and well-being.

Rather than expecting that students affected by racism and discrimination reach out for support, educators and administrators need to be proactive and engage the students directly, while addressing and interrupting bullying every single time they witness it.

There’s much discussion on integration of immigrants. What kinds of services or supports do newcomer children need to successfully integrate in Canada?

Newcomer parents need support in navigating the education system and in advocating for their rights and the rights of their children in that system. Currently, this support is spotty and fragmented: some areas have it or some form of it, though many don’t. Even in areas where schools have settlement workers, these workers may be over-stretched, trying to meet growing needs with shrinking resources. When it comes to institutionalized racism, settlement workers are not equipped with the tools, nor are they encouraged or funded, to engage in advocacy for systemic change.

Before talking about services though, it’s important to remember that safety, followed by love and belonging, is among the first three most basic human needs, according to Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. From an equity perspective, emphasizing and actively supporting a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for children where they live, learn and play is fundamental to their healthy development. For newcomer children, safety and belonging are especially important factors that shape their experience with immigration. This is the philosophy that we want to see permeate every facet of our society, not just within settlement services.

I’d like to see more discussion about safeguarding services against operating like a machine devoid of a human heart. Sometimes services are well-intentioned and look good on the books but fall short when it comes to authentic human connection and genuine expressions of care, empathy and compassion. I say this as both a service provider and as a youth who once received these services. Restricting the length of time people can stay connected to their case workers, for example, or requiring certain documents in order to be connected to services, are just two examples of administrative practices that create barriers and reproduce oppression.

To continue to meet the challenges brought about by global migration, Canada needs to re-think its approach to newcomer support in many areas and re-design our system and the ways in which resources are allocated. Services need to be more integrated, holistic, comprehensive and consistent, taking into account the unique needs of each geographical immigrant area. The examples are too many to list here, but an illustration is evident in the ways in which refugee families from Syria have been treated, with different types of sponsorship revealing major gaps in how services are coordinated and funds are allocated.

If you could influence the federal minister of citizenship, refugees, and immigration to do one thing for newcomer children, what would it be?

Support newcomer families.

Newcomer children do well when their families do well and their basic needs are met. The effects of social and economic inequality on newcomers are imprinted on their children. Too often, newcomer children carry the burden and stress of their parents because of the barriers they face, be it unemployment, financial struggle, inadequate housing, racism, or a combination of all of these factors. When supporting newcomer children we have to include the whole family unit in our analysis and understand the interconnected nature of forms of inequality and the ways in which they influence one another.

What is one of your favourite children’s books that you would recommend for newcomer children? Why?

I think children’s books offer a lot of insight and wisdom for adults, as well as children! One that I particularly like as a diversity educator is “Why Are All The Taxi Drivers…?” by Canadian educator Christopher D’Souza, with illustrations by Nadia Petkovic.

The little girl in the book, Dakota, is curious and, like many children, she asks her Mom about the things she is noticing – unknowingly uncovering hidden bias and stereotypes embedded in the world around us through the eyes of a child. I like this book because it’s a good entry point to a conversation with a child about the inequality they might be witnessing in the world around them. It validates the stuff many racialized immigrant children already know and feel but may not have the words to describe, and gives ideas about ways to create change.

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Ilaneet Goren is a social worker, facilitator, and diversity consultant with over 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector in Toronto. Committed to equity and social justice, she has worked with immigrants as a counselour, group facilitator, and career mentor. Ilaneet specializes in experiential education and mindfulness techniques with a focus on addressing bias, prejudice, and discrimination. In her current role as manager at Harmony Movement, an equity and diversity education organization, Ilaneet designs and delivers diversity education programs for community organizations and private sector partners. Her early life in Soviet Ukraine and in Israel have given her a unique and intimate perspective on how social and political contexts shape a person’s identity and culture.

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immigrantchildren.ca is asking Canadian experts and advocates in immigration, settlement, refugees, and newcomers about their views on newcomer children (birth to age eight). For more interviews, see here.

Four questions for … Waterloo Region Immigration Partnership Council Member Dr. Elif Günçe

I asked Council Member, Immigration Partnership Waterloo Region Dr. Elif Günçe:

What’s the effect of racism, discrimination, and stereotyping on newcomer children (birth to age eight)?

They either become introvert or they learn to hate very early. But racism and stereotyping can exist in both parties. This fact is mostly overlooked. Children can learn to hate within their own family if the parents transfer their learned anger and hatred to them. And as the families try to keep their cultural identity, children are exposed to a new culture outside the family and if the family or the community at large is not supportive, they may end up in a limbo where they feel that they belong neither here nor there.

There’s much discussion on integration of immigrants. What kinds of services or supports do newcomer children need to successfully integrate in Canada?

Children need to be with their peers in the host community as much as possible and as soon as possible. I do not support their segregation within their own communities because of barriers made up in adults’ minds such as the language barrier. There is no language barrier for children! They may not know the language yet but they will learn it quickly if we do not impose ‘our’ barriers to them.

If you could influence the federal minister of citizenship, refugees, and immigration to do one thing for newcomer children, what would it be?

Create safe spaces for children where they can explore their new environment, like summer camps. But do not separate newcomer children from other children. All children of Canada (Aboriginal children, children who were born in Canada, children who recently immigrated) need to be together. They will be each other’s best support systems.

What is one of your favourite children’s books that you would recommend for newcomer children? Why?

I will not recommend a book but I will recommend this: Take the children to libraries, let them explore the world of books and the world’s books. Most newcomer children may have not seen a library in their life, neither have their parents. And libraries may become the best shelter for newcomer children.

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Dr. Elif Gunce is a Council Member with the Immigration Partnership, Waterloo Region , an Adjunct Assistant Professor at UWO Centre for Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Ontario Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Instructor at McMaster University FHS Global Health MSc Program.

Elif blogs at Look How Small the World Is. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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immigrantchildren.ca is asking Canadian experts and advocates in immigration, settlement, refugees, and newcomers about their views on newcomer children (birth to age eight). For more interviews, see here.

The Conference Board of Canada: An Innovative immigration system at 150 and beyond

The Conference Board of Canada recently released a report following their Canadian Immigration Summit, 2017. Titled “An Innovative Immigration System at 150 and Beyond”, it includes a summary of the summit, key findings, and recommendations to “improve settlement, integration, and citizenship policies”.

There’s lots of good stuff here, including identifying initiatives that work, or are promising, and solid recommendations from those in the fields of immigration and settlement, integration, and immigrant employment.

The federal governments’ department of immigration, refugees, and citizenship Fraser Valentine flags three keys for successful immigration:

  1. targeted immigration to meet Canada’s goals
  2. positive integration so that immigrants are welcomed into Canadian society
  3. strong public support for the immigration system.

Ilse Treurnicht, MaRS Discovery District suggests that Canada work to strengthen ‘the immigration-innovation nexus’ by:

  • retaining more international students
  • equipping cities to receive immigrants
  • creating a “comprehensive approach for immigrants to contribute to the economy to leverage their global connections, cultural competencies, knowledge and experiences”
  • having greater alignment between immigration and innovation, technology and education systems
  • demonstrating that immigration benefits Canada economically, and that the business community must champion this, and not leave this to politicians and policy makers alone.

Yes, good stuff, but in the above examples – and others in the report – of how to support immigrant employment, there is no mention of providing child care so that newcomers can participate in training and jobs initiatives. If they have children younger than school-age, child care is an issue.

Number 2 of IRCs Fraser Valentine’s 3 keys to success is “positive integration so that immigrants are welcomed into Canadian society”.  Having a safe, high quality child care program for your children while you work, train or study is a strong welcome to newcomers. It says we care about you, we see you as a whole person, with a family and not just as a worker.

Treurnicht’s call that cities be equipped to receive immigrants should mean receiving the newcomers entire family, including its non-school-aged children.

The Conference Board of Canada says: “Canada needs to identify how to better integrate immigrants in the labour market by continuing to strengthen the linkage between the immigrant selection process and its labour market needs…” I invite them to look at Canada’s labour market needs against its resources, and how to strengthen those resources.

The Conference Board of Canada missed an opportunity to highlight the importance of child care for immigrant employment and the Canadian economy. Next year’s summit?

 

 

Four questions for … author and storyteller Rukhsana Khan

I asked Ruhksana Khan:

What’s the effect of racism, discrimination, and stereotyping on newcomer children?

They suffer. Feeling like they’re less. I’m not sure if there’s much the host country can do to change this. It comes down to people valuing personal character above possessions and that kind of goes against human nature. We tend to get impressed by fancy things.

There’s much discussion on integration of immigrants. What kinds of services or supports do newcomer children need to successfully integrate in Canada?

I think it would be good to get students to partner up with the newcomer students so that they might feel less lonely and isolated. The local students could learn about where the newcomers are coming from, and read Coming to Canada to gain empathy of how difficult it would be to uproot oneself.

They can also take a look at my book Big Red Lollipop which deals tangentially with assimilation as it’s a story of a family that’s new to North America and the idea of only the invited child going to birthday parties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you could influence the federal minister of citizenship, refugees, and immigration to do one thing for newcomer children, what would it be?

Find ways in which newcomers can contribute to the host country as soon as possible. I think it needs to be a two-way street. Newcomers have to feel as though they’re not beholden, that they’re making a contribution towards bettering Canada so the ‘charity’ isn’t going only one way.

What is one of your favourite children’s books that you would recommend for newcomer children? Why?

My book Coming to Canada is used by the Settlement Workers in the Schools program to help newcomers adjust to life in Canada. I would recommend it. I think it contains realistic expectations and I focused on the resources that make Canada such an amazing country like the library and education systems.

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Rukhsana Khan is an award-winning author and storyteller. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan and immigrated to Canada at the age of three.

She grew up in a small town in southern Ontario and was ruthlessly bullied. When a grade eight teacher told her she was a writer, she thought the idea was crazy. Writers were white people. They were from England and America.

To be ‘sensible’ she graduated from college at the top of her class as a biological-chemical technician. When she couldn’t get a decent job she decided to be ‘unsensible’ and become a writer. It took eight years to get her first book published. Now she has twelve books published (one of which was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the 100 greatest children’s books in the last 100 years).

Rukhsana Khan’s website & YouTube channel

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immigrantchildren.ca is asking Canadian experts and advocates in immigration, settlement, refugees, and newcomers about their views on newcomer children (birth to age eight). For more interviews, see here.

Yo Cuento: Latin American immigrant children tell their stories

How (well) do immigrant children adjust to new shores? Researcher Monica Valencia, Ryerson University, asked a group of children to answer the question through drawings.

She found that there were 4 themes in the children’s drawings:

  1. Sadness (leaving behind family, friends, neighbourhood)
  2. Anxiety (unfamiliar, sometimes hostile environment)
  3. Frustration (so much new to learn! Language, customs)
  4. Gratitude for friendship (peer support critical to happy integration).

Read more about this research in a 2014 article written by The Toronto Star’s immigration reporter, Nicholas Keung,

See more immigration related stories by Keung here.

Top 10 moments for immigrant and refugee children in Canada, 2015

10. Syrian refugee children are welcomed to Canada with a dedicated play area at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. #WelcomeRefugees starts trending! Shared by @viraniarif.

9. The 1000 Schools Challenge rallies Canadian schools to welcome refugee children. Shared by @SetAtWork.

8. StatsCan releases report on immigrant children’s performance in math vs. their Canadian-born peers. Research matters! Shared by @StatCan_eng.

7. Syrian refugee children: A Guide for welcoming young children and their families is released. Shared by @CMASCanada.

6. The UNHCR & COSTI holds a Human Rights Child & Youth Poetry Contest. Art matters! Shared by @marcopolis.

5. The 2015 Prosperity Index names Canada the most tolerant country in the world. Shared by @CGBrandonLee.

4. Forty-six visible minorities are elected in #Elxn42. If they can see it, they can be it! Shared by @Andrew_Griffith.

3. Canada elects a government with a self-proclaimed feminist prime minister, who creates a Cabinet committee on diversity and inclusion, puts refugees in the immigration portfolio, and who returns the multiculturalism file to Canadian Heritage.

2.Trent University recognizes child care champion Martha Friendly with an honourary PhD. Martha is an advocate for inclusive, culturally-appropriate child care and early childhood education for all children in Canada. Shared by @TorontoStar.

1. immigrantchildren.ca shares policy advice with new Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, The Honourable John McCallum. Shared by @immigranttalk. (Shameless self-promotion).

Kids in Doug Saunders’ Arrival City ~ The CityBuilder 2015 BookClub

Are you participating in the online CityBuilder BookClub about Doug SaundersArrival City? Interested in migrant child and family issues? Here’s the pages where children/children’s issues are mentioned, in the First Vintage Books paperback edition, April 2012 (ISBN: 978-0-307-38856-8):

child care ~ 16, 52, 110, 227, 238, 284, 405

child labor ~ 142, 153, 154

second generation ~ 33-34, 35, 51, 55, 68-69, 82, 127, 168, 172, 173, 184, 268-69, 272, 273, 277-78, 279, 284, 285, 290-92, 293, 196-97, 301, 320

The book club starts Jan 13th. Happy reading!

 

 

C4P: Immigrant families over the life course

From the Family Science Review website, a call for papers for an upcoming special issue on immigrant families over the life course.

“Family Science Review is inviting manuscripts for a special issue on Immigrant Families over the Life Course. The goal of this issue is to examine immigrant families’ dynamics across generations and over time, in the context of global migration and transnationalism.

“For this issue, we seek research-based manuscripts that explore strengths and challenges of immigrant families as related to acculturation, family adaptation, changes in intergenerational relationships, maintenance/loss of ethnic culture and heritage language, development of ethnic identity, and other issues relevant to immigrant families. We welcome manuscripts that explore the multidimensional experience of immigration among diverse immigrant families (e.g., different countries of origin, migration experiences, socioeconomic characteristics, length of residency in the host country, resources and vulnerabilities), from the perspective of family science. Manuscripts related to the teaching of immigration and families are also welcome.

“Manuscripts should be written in APA style and exemplify the highest quality of writing. Manuscripts should be no more than 30 pages. Authors are advised to check the Family Science Review website for information on manuscripts submission. There is a $20 submission fee for each manuscript which must be received prior to entering the paper and sending it out for review.  Please check the FSR website for details”.

Guest Editors: Olena Nesteruk, Montclair State University at nesteruko@mail.montclair.edu and Beckie Adams, Ball State University at badams@bsu.edu.

Submission Deadline: February 27, 2015

Manuscripts should be written in Word and be sent electronically to nesteruko@mail.montclair.edu no later than February 27, 2015.

Toronto panel discussion on immigrant children and families

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

Building our capacity to support transitions of immigrant/refugee children and youth

BCs Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies (AMSSA) have released a report post their provincial learning exchange on the topic of Building capacity to support transitions of immigrant and refugee children and youth held this summer.

There were several goals for the event:

– to create opportunities for learning about current and emerging research and best practices

– to increase the skills, knowledge and practice of service providers who work with immigrant and refugee children and youth

– for networking, learning from each other and meeting new colleagues

– to re-energize and develop synergy amongst the different sub-sectors

– to identify emerging issues and priorities for future work and development.

The report includes background, goals and overviews and discusses what is called three big ideas for serving newcomer children and youth: Settlement, culture, and readiness.

Mothercraft’s “Caring for Canada’s Children” online training project

Caring for Canada’s Children was an online training event offered by Mothercraft 2009-2010, and can be found archived on the Mothercraft website.

Funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Mothercraft offered Caring for Canada’s Children training course for settlement workers and other professionals working with newcomer families and children from birth to age six. The two-year online training program covered many topics, including:

The effects of migration policy on family reorganization

Adaptations to parenting: Healthy family functioning

The Challenges to cultural and geographic dislocation

The global worker: Cultural competence in the settlement sector.

Mothercraft is seeking renewed funding to support updated training to include a training manual and future professional training.

If you participated in Mothercraft’s Caring for Canada’s Children, and have feedback, please respond to the following questions via email to Cindy Kwan at ckwan@mothercraft.org .

1.  Since the Caring for Canada’s Children training, have you found the information useful in your professional work?

2. Would you be interested in a more thorough updated training manual focused on newcomer families: issues for families with infants and young children under six years of age?

3.  Please share a quick comment with us about the Caring for Canada’s Children training and its use in your professional work.

Responses are due by Friday, August 24, 2012

Call for papers: International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

The International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care is (from their website) “a multidisciplinary journal focusing on international migration. The journal’s focus includes coverage of labour migration, asylum seekers, refugees and undocumented migrants, with an emphasis on health and social care and mental health issues.

“The following themes are of particular interest to the journal:
– Health care of migrants and refugees
– Impact of displacement on health and social care needs
– Treatment of refugee children
– Impact of family separation
– Human trafficking
– Integration of migrants and refugees”.

Submissions should be sent to the Editor, Professor Charles Watters at charles.watters@rutgers.edu

Author Guidelines.