FRP Perspectives in Family Support (Spring 2010) special issue on immigrant families

The Canadian Association of Family Resource Centres (FRP Canada) has released a special edition of their journal, Perspectives in Family Support with a focus on immigrant families:

In “The Participation of Immigrant Families in the Activities of Family Resource Programs”, Marie Rhéaume reports on a research study conducted in Québéc that examined the issues and “distances” between immigrant mothers and Québécois mothers and found that, overall, family resource centres because of the “values that underlie the work of these community-based organizations, particularly the climate of respect, help build bridges between the two groups”. For more on the study, see here.

In “Taking an Advocacy With Approach”, as opposed to an advocacy for approach, Lianne Fisher argues for the importance of self-reflection of family resource practitioners who work with newcomers to recognize and resolve possible stigmatizing and marginalizing that may occur when practitioners seek to help newcomers.

An excerpt of “Phase 2 of FRP Canada’s Welcome Here Project: A Summary Report of Lessons Learned”, also available on the FRP Canada website welcomehere.ca.

The issue of cultural adaptation and/or interpretation v. simple translation is covered by Betsy Mann in “Reflecting on Issues of Translation and Interpretation”.

Researcher Dr. Judith K. Bernhard writes on “What are the Essential Elements of Valid Research? The Problem of ‘Data’ and their Collection in Cross-Cultural Contexts” from a personal viewpoint as both an immigrant to Canada and now a practicing academic in immigrant-family related studies.

An early learning framework for immigrant and refugee children

As the Ontario government launched their Best Start initiative in 2003, they struck several “expert panels” to advise them on best practices in delivering quality early learning and child care. One of the expert panels developed an Early Learning Framework, also referred to as the Early Learning for Every Child Today curriculum, or ELECT. This post explores the opportunity to adapt the framework to meet the unique needs of immigrant and refugee children.

The Early Learning Framework (ELF) provides a common framework for early childhood practitioners on what and how young children learn. It is complementary to all early childhood settings and curricula. The ELF strengthens practitioner’s ability to support young children’s early learning, growth and development.

The ELF has wide support within the early childhood community; the framework has been well received by the early childhood community and has been implemented in several locations (see the Atkinson Centre for Society and Child Development).

A settlement-focused complementary ELF, will support settlement workers in understanding and responding to the specific settlement issues of young children.

The ELF describes “how young children learn and develop (p.1)”. A settlement-focused ELF could describe how young newcomer children learn, develop, and settle. Newcomer children have specific needs, different from children of the dominant culture. The ELF does not address issues specific to immigrant and refugee children (although a background paper on diversity, equity and inclusion was prepared for and is briefly cited in the ELF). For example, in a section on brain development, a settlement-focused ELF might more fully include the research on the impact of trauma on developing brains. This is important information for practitioners working with newcomer children, especially refugee children fleeing war-torn countries and/or environmental disasters.

The ELF acknowledges the important role that families and communities play in the development of young children. A settlement-focused ELF could expand on this element and include discussion of differing values in a range of cultures and how newcomers cope with and learn to parent in a new socio-cultural context.

The ELF contains a “statement of principles… based on beliefs, values, experience and current research findings” and includes this statement “Respect for diversity, equity and inclusion are prerequisites for honouring children’s rights, optimal development and learning”. A settlement-focused ELF could begin with a similar statement but expand and ground its framework from an equity and inclusion starting point.

Using the ELF as a foundation, practitioners will share the same language as practitioners in other settings, furthering their ability to connect/liaise on behalf of newcomer children with practitioners in related sectors and therefore ease newcomer children transition into formal early learning and child care services and kindergarten.

A proposed structure for a settlement-focused ELF would mirror the ELF Table of Contents (p.3), with some changes, adjustments and additions.  For example, in addition to the section on “Understanding Children’s Development”, a settlement-focused ELF might include a section on “Understanding Settlement Issues for Children and Parents”. A glossary would be indispensable in helping practitioners understand and use a common language to discuss settlement, integration, racism, transnational families, trauma (PTSD) and etc.

The ELF itself endorses the development of a kind of settlement-focused ELF:

“Young children with different abilities, challenges, resources and cultural backgrounds and their families come together in early childhood settings. They bring unique life experiences and orientations. They and their families benefit most when they are fully included and when they feel that they belong. Children grow up with a strong sense of self in environments that promote attitudes, beliefs and values of equity and democracy and support their full participation. To include everyone, early childhood settings must encourage healthy dialogue about the principles and shared beliefs that relate to inclusion, diversity, and equity. They must recognize every child as a citizen with equal rights and unique views about how to participate in the world. To turn belief statements and principles into practice at the community level requires an infrastructure that actively promotes engagement of all children and their families (p. 12)”.

The development and use of a settlement-focused ELF would also demonstrate collaboration across jurisdictions, if jointly supported by the federal and provincial governments. Importantly, the inclusion of the core components of the ELF in a settlement-focused curriculum document would support quality early learning and care environments and outcomes for newcomer children.

I welcome expressions of interest in developing a settlement-focused early learning curriculum. See my contact info.

Listening to families: Responding to (newcomer) families

Sponsored by the Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs and the Family Support Institute of Ontario and funded by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, a trio of Ryerson University researchers have developed a book and DVD based on research they conducted with families across Canada. The results provide early childhood practitioners with best practices in working with newcomer families, families living in poverty and families with children with special needs.

For more information on the Listening to Families: Reframing Services project, visit the Ryerson University research update page.

Metropolis conference: Immigration and diversity. Crossroads of culture, engine of economic development

The 12th annual Metropolis conference will be held March 18-20, 2010 in Montreal. The theme this year is Immigration and Diversity: Crossroads of Culture, Engine of Economic Development. immigrantchildren.ca is pleased to see so many workshops and roundtables addressing issues related to newcomer families and young children, including:

Transnational Families: Where race, culture and adoption intersect, by Susan Crawford, lead for the Halton Multicultural Council project “Transracial Parenting Initiative”. From the abstract: “This workshop presents research on transracial and transnational families created through adoption across Canada. Presentations examine cultural enrichment through adoption, gaps in delivering pre- and post-adoption services and the needsof transracial familites; and adult adoptees’ complex experiences and understandings of ethno-racial identity”.

Conflict and Violence in Immigrant Families, by Madine VanderPlaat, St. Mary’s University. From the abstract: “This workshop will examine issues related to gender, conflict and violence within immigrant families. Participants will discuss the factors that contribute to stressors as well as the challenges and opportunities for culturally competent social responses”.

Health and Access to it for Migrants after Birth, by Anita Gagnon, Denise Bradshaw, Marlo Turner-Ritchie. From the abstract: “Tri-city (Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal) data on the health and service needs of refugee, asylum-seeking, non-refugee immigrant and Canadian-born women and their infants during pregnancy, at birth and during the first four months after birth will be presented in conjunction with potential policy responses to these date”.

School, Community and Collaborative Practice: Fostering the Integration of Immigrant and Refguee Youth in the Canadian School Context, by Sophie Yohani, N. Ernest Khalema. From the abstract: “Creating welcoming communities in educational settings is vital for newcomer students who may have a history that hinders adaptation. This workshop brings together academic researchers, non-profit practitioners, a government program officer, and a graduate student who share expertise in community-based collaborative practice to address the adaptation of refugee and immigrant students in the Canadian school context”.

Taking Care into Consideration: Local and Transnational Implications for Families, Children and Youth, by Alexandra Dobrowolsky and Evangelia Tastsoglou. From the abstract: “Familial networks, local and transnational, are critical to immigrants’ decision-making processes. The accommodation of care concerns (care of children, elderly parents, etc). also becomes a key consideration for migrants, especially for women. This workshop explores the repercussions of familial networks, and the complex negotiation of care concerns vis-a-vis attraction and retention”.

For more details on the above, see the conference program page.

Draft child care model for newcomer families

Citizenship and Immigration Canada funded the organization CMAS ~ Childminding Monitoring and Advisory Services to draft a child care model for newcomer families; one that would “fit with the modernization of settlement services“.

The draft model is now available on the CMAS website, although it seems that, unfortunately,  feedback is only open until Jan 26th – tomorrow. immigrantchildren.ca responds:

The draft model proposes 3 goals: to simplify the child care system; to support Service Provider Organizations (SPOs) in offering care to more newcomers; and to focus on the child and family. These goals are  synonymous with the goals long articulated by child care advocates and researchers, see the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, for example. A comprehensive, not-for-profit, flexible, community-based and publicly funded and regulated child care system would provide all these things to newcomer families with children – as much as it would for all Canadian families and children. In fact, the more “universal” a program, the more it would respond to the differing needs of various groups: student parents, immigrant parents, rural families, shift-working parents. Thirty years of research and policy and program development have the knowledge to build a truly comprehensive system of child care for all Canadian families, newcomer and otherwise.

In the CMAS proposal, there is little meat around the notions of “a streamlined administrative process” and “maximum flexibility”. What do these mean? How will they be operationalized? What are the requirements that CMAS speaks of? Most glaringly, the notion of “quality child care” is not defined, explained or discussed, although it is promised. Is there a more detailed document that is not being shared?

On page 16, it is suggested that each SPO can assess its own child care needs. This adds a burden on the already overworked SPO. If CIC is committed to providing quality child care for newcomer families, then surely it has a clear role in assessing, developing, implementing and offering child care programs. Leaving it to the SPOs does not promote a comprehensive, universal approach.

Again, there is mention of “requirements” that are not elaborated on. Just what are the requirements? Who has set them? How will they be monitored? Evaluated?

How can the new model be responsive to the needs of newcomer children and families when, as stated on page 17, “Adult services will assist in determining what child care support is required”.

Indeed, child care support is the term used throughout the document. Child care “support”? This is a missed opportunity for the Federal government to acknowledge (as many other jurisdictions in Canada do) that child care is early learning. This proposed model is purely custodial. This is not a support to newcomer families. Early learning would support the integration of newcomer children – integration is a priority of the Federal government.

Indeed there is no discussion of programming, other than mentions of a program’s ability to respond to the needs of newcomer children. But how? For a draft model that purports to address the needs of immigrant children and families, it is light on details.

In addition, there is no discussion of staffing. Other than mentions of enhanced ability of “caregivers” to deliver programming, it is not clear if staff will be required to have any level of training. Will staff be Early Childhood Educators? As Ontario (and other jurisdictions in Canada and North America) moves to upgrading and professionalizing those who work with the most vulnerable of populations (children, and in particular, young immigrant children), the Federal government has missed out on the opportunity to provide newcomer children with the best start possible.

(A parallel “system” of child care exists for military families). More piecemeal approaches do little to further the development of a truly comprehensive system of early learning and child care for all families and children in Canada. The proposed model for newcomer families is a disappointment. immigrantchildren.ca urges CIC to go back to the table, consult with researchers, advocates, practitioners, policy-makers and academics and develop a pan-Canadian child care system that meets the needs of all children and families.

Canadian Council for Refugees winter working group meetings

The Canadian Council for Refugees Winter Working Group meetings will be held in Toronto February 26-27/10. On Fri Feb 26/10, 2 working groups will address Overseas Protection and Sponsorship and Immigration and Settlement. On Sat Feb 27/10, the working group will be meeting on Inland Protection. All working group meetings will include discussion of family reunification. See the page for more information.

Folks who attend the CCR meetings rave about them. Have you ever been?

York University (Toronto) annual summer course on refugee and forced migration studies

This year’s Summer Course on Refugee and Forced Migration Issues by the Centre for Refugee Studies, York University will be held May 8-16/10 at the Keele Campus. Fee is $975 Cdn, if you register before Feb 26/10 (fee goes up to $1100 after that date).

For more information, visit the conference course website , email summer@yorku.ca and refer back to previous postings at immigrantchildren.ca.

New citizenship guide for new Canadians

The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism today released an updated guide to Canadian Citizenship. Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.

The launch of the “study guide” (last published in 1997) was held at the Terry Fox Centre, where Minister Kenney talked about inspiration, fortune and his vision for modern Canada. The announcement – and guide – provide a generous nod to Canada’s military history and major events (the 1997 edition skipped quite a bit of this, including Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach, Dieppe). The guide also does not shy away from some shameful periods in Canada’s past, such as the residential schools for Aboriginal children, the Internment of Japanese Canadians and the Chinese Exclusion Act, but I was disappointed to not see mention of the home children.

Canadian history must acknowledge the home children – some 100,000 children taken from their homeland and brought to our shores to serve labour needs that Canadians could not or would not take on (sound familiar?). A great many of these children were younger than 10 years old and lived lives of brutality. These children were not adopted in the sense of how we use the word today, but taken, often bought and treated as chattel.  I’ll be lobbying the Canadian Museum of Human Rights to include an exhibit on the home children. Who’s with me?

Consultation on child care for newcomer families

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has funded the organization CMAS (Childminding Monitoring Advisory Support) to conduct a national consultation of the settlement community, including immigrant serving organizations, Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) administrators and childminders, towards the development of a new child care model for newcomer families. The consultation process includes an online survey and teleconferences. See the CMAS website for information and details.