Interviewing immigrant and refugee children

BRYCS – the US-based group – Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services has released a guide on best practices in interviewing newly-arrived immigrant or refugee children. The introduction to this guide says that in the US, agencies that receive any federal funding must provide “services of an equal quality to people who have Limited English Proficiency” (LEP) and “To provide equal quality services, it is vital to allow LEP children and families to use the language that they are most comfortable speaking”, meaning that federally funded agencies must provide bilingual interviewers or foreign language interpreters.

Does anyone know if Canada has any similar requirement? Should we?

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.

New (US) research: Immigration, diversity and education

New research on young children of immigrants, publication date: Nov 2009. In an edited collection, entitled Immigration, Diversity, and Education, editors Elena Grigorenko and Ruby Takanishi present the first wave of studies about what is happening to young children from birth to age 10 living in immigrant families in the U.S.

The contributors offer interdisciplinary perspectives on recent developments and research findings on children of immigrants. … this collection lays the foundation for changes in child and youth policies associated with the shifting ethnic, cultural and linguistic profile of the US population (Source: NAME Listserv, Sept 23/09).

Table of Contents

Preface, Elena L. Grigorenko

Introduction, Ruby Takanishi

1. Children of Immigrants and the Future of America, Donald J.Hernandez, Nancy A. Denton, and Suzanne E. Macartney.

2. Differences in Social Transfer Support and Poverty for Immigrant Families with Children: Lessons from the LIS, Timothy Smeeding, Coady Wing, and Karen Robson.

3. Disentangling Nativity Status, Race/Ethnicity, and Country of Origin in Predicting the School Readiness of Young Immigrant Children, Jessica Johnson De Feyter and Adam Winsler.

4. Preparing the Way: Early Head Start and the Socio-Emotional Health of Latino Infants and Toddlers, Krista M. Perreira, Linda Beeber, Todd Schwartz, Diane Holditch-Davis, India Ornelas and Lauren Maxwell.

5. Latinos and Early Education: Immigrant Generational Differences and Family Involvement, Eugene E. Garcia, Kent Scribner, and Delis Cullar.

6. Diversity in Academic Achievement: Children of Immigrants in US Schools, Jennifer E. Glick and Littisha Bates.

7. Latino/a Immigrant Parents? Voices in Mathematics Education, Marta Civil and Naria Planas.

8. Cultural Incongruence Between Teachers and Families: Implications for Immigrant Students, Selcuk R. Sirin and Patrice Ryce.

9. Special Educational Needs of Children in Immigrant Families, Dylan Conger and Elena L. Grigorenko.

10. Two Generations of Educational Progress in Latin American Immigrant Families in the U.S: A Conceptual Framework for a New Policy Context, Ariel Kalil and Robert Crosnoe.

11. Does It Begin At School Or Home? Institutional Origins Of Overweight Among Young Children In Immigrant Families, Jennifer Van Hook, Elizabeth Baker and Claire Altman.

12. Parenting of Young Immigrant Chinese Children: Challenges Facing their Social Emotional and Intellectual Development, Charissa S. L. Cheah and Jin Li.

13. More than the A-B-C’s and 1-2-3’s: The importance of family cultural socialization and ethnic identity development for children of immigrants’ early school success, Amy Kerivan Marks, Flannery Patton
and Cynthia Garcia Coll.

14. Emergent Literacy in Immigrant Children: Home and School Environment Interface, Iliana Reyes and Yuuko Uchikoshi.

15. Development of Tolerance and Respect for Diversity in Children in the context of Immigration, Oscar Barbarin, Micaela Mercado and Dari Jigjidsuren.

Conclusion: Commenting On What We Know and What We Need to Learn, Elena L. Grigorenko.

“On Their Own”: Unaccompanied children conference

On Their Own: Protecting the Rights of Immigrant Children is the theme of this year’s annual conference hosted by the (US-based) National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children.

The conference will be held Oct 7-9/09 in Washington DC and will attract advocates from the legal sector as well as participants from the wider non-profit sector, including policy makers, academics and researchers. The conference seeks to examine and challenge current practices and policies and develop best practices for supporting unaccompanied children.

For more info, see the website.

Which way home: Documentary on unaccompanied children

Which Way Home tells the story of several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the United States via a freight train they have nick-named The Beast. Directed by Rebecca Cammisa, the film tells the stories of “children like Olga and Freddy, nine-year old Hondurans who are desperately trying to reach their families in Minnesota, and Jose, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran who has been abandoned by smugglers and ends up alone in a Mexican detention center, and focuses on Kevin, a canny, streetwise 14-year-old Honduran, whose mother hopes that he will reach New York City and send money back to his family. These are stories of hope and courage, disappointment and sorrow” (Source: uscri.refugees.org listserv).

Airs Mon Aug 24/09 et/pt at 9pm on HBO.

Ten policies to improve child care for immigrant children

New from CLASP  (US-based Center for Law and Social Policy) comes Ten Policies to Improve Access to Quality Child Care for Children in Immigrant Families:

  1. Create and disseminate information packets for new parents in multiple languages that discuss quality child care and help link parents with information and referral agencies.
  2. Fund outreach on quality child care and subsidy eligibility targeted to immigrant families, including grants to community-based organizations with expertise in serving immigration populations.
  3. Use grants, contracts and quality funds to expand the availability of high-quality child care in immigrant communities.
  4. Expand access to Head Start and Early Head Start in child care settings through grants, contracts and eligibility policies.
  5. Translate child care subsidy information and materials and provide dedicated funding and translation and interpretation at the local level.
  6. Increase bilingual staff capacity in subsidy agencies through pay differentials or incentives.
  7. Pay differential child care subsidy payment rates to centers and family child care homes that serve English Language Learners and/or child care providers with a bilingual endorsement.
  8. Create community-based support networks for family, friend and neighbor caregivers in immigrant communities that improve quality of care.
  9. Include measures of cultural and linguistic competence in state quality rating and improvement systems, and provide supports to help programs meet the standards.
  10. Ensure that child care providers receive training to improve their work with culturally and linguistically diverse children and their families and provide support for cultural competency initiatives.

Read the full report on the CLASP site.

More than words: Supporting 2nd language acquisition in young immigrant children

Interesting story out of Penn State University where researchers worked with preschool programs to help them identify strategies to support 2nd language learning in very young immigrant children.

The children were given cameras and asked to take photos of their world outside of their classrooms. Then, the children talked about the pictures they had taken with their teachers. Researchers cite improved teacher and child interactions and stronger language and vocabulary development in the children. 

From the news story:

“After the two years and final transcript comparisons were completed, the study unexpectedly found that learning English was not an obstacle to the oral expression of immigrant preschool children when compared to their native-born classmates. In fact, once invited into conversation through photo elicitation, the stories of reportedly “quiet” immigrant children proved as long as the others. And there was no statistical difference in conversational skills when American-born and immigrant children were compared and, in fact, the immigrant language complexity became superior to the native-born children.

The findings of the study also provided a caution for the teachers in the preschool. ‘The teachers have to listen to the kids,…We found the teachers had preconceived notions or myths about the children. The photo exercises changed that and they learned a great deal about the child’s world. The project turned out to be a powerful invitation for all the children to converse and they provided a place for the immigrant voice to be heard’.

Women’s Refugee Commission May luncheon event, NYC

The Women’s Refugee Commission (formerly the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children) is celebrating their 20th anniversary with a luncheon honouring two extraordinary women.

Dr. Shamail Azimi, physician who returned to Afghanistan after the Taliban fell in 2001 and who lead a team of female physicians in providing maternal and child-health care services.

Mariatu Kamara, a child refugee of Sierra Leone, now studying at the University of Toronto, who serves as the UNICEF Special Representative for Children. Mariatu is co-author of The Bite of the Mango, her memoir.

The luncheon will be held Thursday May 7 at Gotham Hall, New York City. For more information, call 212.763.8590 or visit the Women’s Refugee Commission website and event page.

Children of a new world, by Paula S. Fass

Excerpts from: Nihal Ahioglu. Review of Fass, Paula S. Children of a new world: Society, culture and globalization. H-Childhood, N-Net Reviews. April 2009. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial Works).

Children of a New World is an impressive book consisting of essays that the author has previously published on children in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. Two underlying themes connect these essays. The first suggest that childhood has become a significant working area in social history. Though these essays are profoundly informed by social history and carry a deep concern about large-scale shifts in the experience of children, Paula S. Fass also provides sharp pieces of cultural analysis. She relates her evidence to political history, and to other disciplines, such as literature, education and psychology. 

From the interpretation of children and childhood using a broadly conceived historical approach, Fass reveals her second main theme: the influence of a “new world” or “globalization” on children and the meanings of childhood.

In the first part of the book, Fass emphasizes historical change regarding children and the meanings of childhood in terms of schooling and migration in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. Schooling was critical in a pluralistic society accommodating a great number of immigrants. Integrating different cultures into the same values and thus the idea of establishing “a mutual national identity” become one of the most important aims in these years. In spite of the existence of such a political objective, to protect and maintain their own cultures, immigrants preferred alternative or religious schools for their children. Nevertheless, changing economical conditions and the rise of specialized clerks increased the significance of public schooling. In this context, intelligence tests were invented to predict what an individual could accomplish with education or training. Testing served as a tool for solving social and cultural problems by sorting children and (purportedly) allowing the educational and child welfare systems to meet the psychological needs of individuals. According to Fass, it caused a kind of segregation in education to the disadvantage of immigrant youths because the tests were culturally biased. Complementing the intelligence testing movement in the interwar period, American educators attempted to develop a comprehensive and uniform curriculum. The new curriculum included “extracurricular activities”, through which students found opportunities to prove their self-direction in social, citizenship, athletic and academic subjects. This was aimed to improve the citizenship and advance assimilation of diverse cultural groups. But the results were not always so straightforward….

The last two centuries have been a period in which significant changes have occurred in childhood. Children of a New World presents this change strikingly to readers by using different social, cultural, and economic incidents, events, and experiences. In addition to presenting different examples about the social history of children and the cultural history of childhood in a systematic and analytical way, this book encourages us to ask new questions about how these distinctive stories fit into a larger modern transformation of childhood.

The neglect of citizen children in US immigration policy

A new study by Dorsey and Whitney, LLP for the Urban Institute raises several issues with regard to the impact of immigration policy on immigrant- and citizen-children of immigrants in the US.

Severing a Lifeline: The Neglect of Citizen Children in America’s Immigration Enforcement Policy begins with the startling statistic that of the 5 million “illegal immigrants” in the United States, 3 million are actually children citizens, born in the USA.

From the executive summary:

“US citizen children are the victims of immigration laws that are out of step with the manner in which we address child welfare issues in other areas of the law. The “best interests” of the child find little or no hearing in the process of detaining and deporting undocumented parents. The hard suffered by the citizen child who loses a parent to deportation, or the citizen child who loses his or her prospective future in the United States in the interests of maintaining family unity, is thus the natural consequence of systemic shortcomings in US immigration law and policy.

“The primary goal of this report is to reveal, and to prompt meaningful and reasoned debate regarding, the deficiencies in this country’s immigration laws and enforcement scheme relative to the interests of our citizen children”.

The study includes a series of comprehensive recommendations for reform.

Role of race and ethnicity in the lives of children in history

The US-based Society for the History of Children and Youth is holding an online discussion through their listserv, H-Childhood. Responses will help shape the next Society for the History of Children and Youth newsletter.

Facilitators have posted two general questions that they hope will spark a good discussion. Here are the questions:

  1. What role did race and ethnicity in particular (along with class, gender, age, and region) play in the lives of children and youth of color in history? More pointedly, did race and ethnicity make for or lead to fundamentally different experiences of childhood for children and youth of color as compared to their white counterparts?
  2. Why is it important (if you think it is) to study children and youth of color in history? Will this work change our understanding of the history of childhood and youth in fundamental ways? If so, how so?

Discussion ends April 3rd.