Supporting Refugee & Immigrant Families in Family Support and Early Education Services

“I am writing to ask for your help, please. I want to know if you know of some books so that I can explain to my children that their dad and I are immigrants. It is difficult at their age to understand what is happening now. My daughter suffered racism from a friend at school. I felt unable to explain and find the right words for her without her being afraid for us. I hope you can help me or guide me to where I can find this information and explain to my children what is happening.”

This mother’s request is not unique, and highlights an issue that we cannot ignore. Negative sentiment towards families who are refugees or have immigrated for other reasons to the United States has always persisted. As early childhood professionals, and in our own personal lives, this is a reality that many of us have seen and dealt with firsthand. These sentiments, or at least the public expression of them, seem to have risen due to recent policy changes affecting some of the children and families we serve, who came to the U.S. from another country. With the rise of these sentiments and the news and discussions that surround them, fear and worry are also on the rise for many children and families.

This fear—of harm, of deportation, or of not knowing how recent changes will affect their families—is on a level akin to trauma, and as such it is something that as early childhood professionals we simply cannot ignore if we are to deliver effective services. Politics completely aside, it is our job as early childhood professionals to create safe, supportive environments for all children and their families that we come across in our work. It is intrinsic to what we do every day, and to the foundation of our work. With that in mind, please use the following resources to guide you in supporting children and their families who have been most affected by recent policy changes.

RESEARCH & RESOURCES

Wisconsin Department of Children & Families (DCF)

Refugee Resources: This webpage offers Wisconsin-specific and national links to resources, programs and agencies supporting refugee children and families.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS)

Trauma-Informed Care- Resources: These resources will help you to build a foundation of understanding and knowledge to implement trauma-informed care in your work.

DSC_1197National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

Voices of Immigrant Parents in Preschool Settings: This article from Young Child discusses insight from the “Children Crossing Borders” project, where more than 100 immigrant parents in five US cities, shared their ideas, hopes and concerns for how their children’s early educators would interact and engage with their children.

What can you do to support and advocate for children, families and educators?: This blog post looks at some of the simple, concrete actions you can take to support and advocate for the children and families that you serve.

Exploration of the Status of Services for Immigrant Families in Early Childhood Education Programs: This report examines the services available to immigrant families in early education and offers guidelines for next steps, to create more supportive, inclusive early education environments.

The Gifts of the Stranger; Learning From Others’ Differences: This article from Young Child looks at how early educators can learn from the differences in the children and families in their care, and by viewing diversity as a strength, become more effective educators.

Teaching Tolerance (A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center)

Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff: This resource offers basic information to guide your understanding of federal law as it applies to educators sharing information about children and families who are immigrants, and the restrictions surrounding immigration raids, as well as what educators and communities can so to support affected students and families.

Family Preparedness Plan (Plan De Preparacion Familiar): This resource, available in English and Spanish, can be used with immigrant and refugee families so they can feel prepared, and have a plan in place for their family, should something unexpected occur with the parents’ or other family members’ immigration status.

Child Trends

Moving Beyond Trauma: Child Migrants and Refugees in the United States: This report offers a look at some of the traumas child migrants/refugees face, and provides recommendations for policy and practice to better support these children in dealing with this trauma.

Supporting refugee and immigrant children: This blog post provides ways that those supporting children can mitigate childhood trauma that may arise from issues surrounding refugee and immigrant children and their families. As a bonus, this post has an embedded podcast for more information, Episode 1: Three Angles on the Child Refugee Crisis.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)native_2

Refugee Trauma Web Page: This page contains multiple resources, tools and guidance for supporting those who deal with trauma related to being a refugee.

Child Welfare Information Gateway

Parental Resilience Web Page: This page offers ideas for supporting children and families to build resilience in the face of trauma and other difficulties.

Helping Immigrant Families Overcome Challenges: This page has a variety of issue-specific resources for working with immigrant children and their families.

Zero to Three

Building Resilience: This resource specifically explores supporting infants and toddlers facing adversity.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Know Your Rights: Check out these resources from the ACLU that cover a variety of topics relevant to immigrant and refugee families.

Latino Support Network

Key Resource Guide for The Latino Community, Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin
(Guía de Recursos Claves para la Comunidad Latina, Madison, Condado de Dane, Wisconsin):
This guide offers resources specific to those in Madison and/or Dane County, looking for supports and information regarding immigration and related issues.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Conozca Sus Derechos Guía sobre sus derechos en relación a contacto con oficiales de inmigración o la policía: This Spanish guide provides basic information about immigrant rights when confronted by immigration or law enforcement, as well as preparedness strategies for immigrant families.

Marquette University

Stress Related to Immigration Status in Students: A Brief Guide for Schools: This brief written by Marquette University staff looks at ways immigration can affect students in the classroom, and how staff can support those students and their families.

TRAINING & EVENTS

Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA)

YoungStar Annual Training Calendar (Updated Monthly): This regularly updated list of trainings, primarily focused on early educators, offers various trainings on topics such as resiliency, cultural competency and trauma-informed care, that would be helpful in supporting immigrant and refugee children and families.

Centro Hispano

Immigration Services: Visit or call Centro Hispano in Madison, Wisconsin regarding immigration related consultation, naturalization, permanent residence, DACA (Deferred Action) and family services.

Department of Public Instruction (DPI)

Trauma-Informed Contacts (Training): This list offers several contact options in Wisconsin for setting up or participating in a trauma-informed training.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Cultural Competency for Working with Immigrant Populations (Webinar): Webinar recording and transcript available.

Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health (WI-AIMH)

2017 Wisconsin Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Conference: This annual conference offers speakers and sessions promoting social and emotional development in everyday activities for infants, young children, and their families, as well as early intervention and treatment strategies. The 2017 conference will be held June 12-14, 2017 at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, WI.

These are only a few of many resources out there. Every child and family we serve is deserving of our unbiased support, compassion and understanding. Let us remember that at the core of how we approach each child, is our collective aim as early childhood professionals to meet them where they are at and support them and their family in whatever way we can to make their early, formative years the best that they can be.

(This article was originally published in the SFTA Q1 2017 Newsletter. Subscribe to our newsletter).

Resource Guide to Trauma-Informed Human Services

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Do you work with children and families? Having a better understanding of how trauma affects people of all ages can make your services more effective and engaging. Check out this Resource Guide to Trauma-Informed Human Services from the Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations, the Administration for Community Living, the Offices of the Assistant Secretary for Health and the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at HHS. Additional resources can be found on the CDC website and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.

Family Engagement Criteria in Action: WI Child Care Providers

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When a family is actively engaged in their child’s early learning, in child care and at home, it not only positions them to better understand their child’s growth and needs, it strengthens supports for that child’s development and school readiness (NAEYC). The importance of this connection is why the 2016 YoungStar Draft Evaluation Criteria states that starting in 2017 child care programs participating in YoungStar will be required to earn points for family engagement practices; one point to earn a 3 Star, and two points to earn a 4 or 5 Star.

The family engagement criteria consist of five categories. Beyond these categories, depending on the star level your program is striving to achieve or maintain, there are tiered requirements that demonstrate the depth of the activities you implement, a set amount of categories that have to be covered, and a certain number of family engagement activities that programs must achieve. For a more in depth idea of what that entails, you can take a look at the Family and Group Family Engagement Criteria, or ask about additional technical consultation and free or low-cost training surrounding the family engagement point(s) at your local YoungStar office. For now, we are going to take a look at what family engagement might look like in each tier (A and B), of the five family engagement criteria categories, to get you thinking about how you can incorporate more family engagement into your program to meet these requirements.

  1. Transition: An ongoing process to ensure children and families are informed and supported through changes in a child’s placement within, or in relation to, their child care program. Examples:file000264362061
    Tier A) There is a policy in place that outlines a plan to ease transition for children moving to a new classroom.
    Tier B) Implement a “buddy system” for transitioning children to a new classroom, where two children get transitioned together so they know someone in their new room. Let them pick a favorite toy or stuffed animal from their old room to take with them to the new room.
  2. Family Involvement (Engagement): Family involvement is participation of families in events and activities the program plans for families. Family engagement is the ongoing, shared responsibility by programs and families to support children’s learning and development, where families work with programs to plan events, activities, and program changes.
    Involvement = for families, engagement = with families.file0001201671580 Examples:
    Tier A) Program offers at least 3 opportunities throughout the year for families to participate in the child care program, such as coming along on a class field trip or coming to eat lunch with their child on a special occasion (Family Involvement).
    Tier B) Create a committee with parents and staff to plan program events and activities together (Family Engagement).
  3. Family Communications Strategies: If programs know how to most effectively communicate with the families in their care, they can build meaningful relationships. Examples:Comment box Tier A) Have a question on the intake form about the family’s preferred method of communication; e.g. call, e-mail, text, etc.
    Tier B) Have a suggestion box for parents to give feedback and/or make recommendations for the program. The program can use suggestions from parents/families to make positive changes, showing parents that their input matters.
  4. Family Support Strategies: When programs have the tools and strategies in place to support families in areas of need, especially during stressful times, it enhances positive interactions between the program and the family, as well as the family and their child.Clothes
    Examples:
    Tier A) Program has a written policy outlining how they will gather information from families about their culture and values, and acknowledging a family’s right to make decisions for their child.
    Tier B) Have an exchange table at the program where families can donate items that their child has grown out of so other families who need those items can take them.
  5. Family/Community Connection Strategies: By building and maintaining strong relationships throughout their community, with family support organizations, businesses, etc., early education programs can more readily connect families with extra supports when needed.Examples:Garden
    Tier A) Demonstrate the program is sponsoring or participating in local community events at least twice throughout the year, by having a sign-up sheet for the event, pictures, or fliers.
    Tier B) Involve children and families in community service projects through their child care program, such as participating in a local food drive, or working in a community garden.

Barriers to family engagement:

Sometimes engaging and involving families in your child care program takes some extra time and effort. It means building solid relationships with your families and working from that foundation to create a stronger sense of engagement and shared commitment to the program and the children it serves. Don’t let one setback discourage you. As the provider it is up to you to continually try to engage families in their children’s experience at your program. Here are a few barriers to family engagement you might consider:

  • Time of day that the event is being held. Maybe you can have the event at two separate times to allow people options to choose from (morning and evening), or survey families to see what works best for the majority. Drop off and pick up times may work well since families already plan on being there.
  • Length of event. Is your event a realistic amount of time for families with young children to stay? Are families expected to stay for the entire event? An “open house” approach where families can come and go within the allotted time for the event may work better for some families.
  • Interrupted meal times or hunger. Provide food of some kind at the event for parents and family members who may have just come from work or need a little extra incentive to get there.
  • Age-appropriate activities. Are there activities for all family members who are expected to attend? Consider older/younger siblings.
  • Transportation. Do all of your families have ready access to a car or other transportation? Partner with a bus service, community car resource or have volunteer drivers to make sure all families can get to any events. Families might be willing to carpool if you work with them to create a car pool calling tree or social media event ahead of time.

…and remember, any event or effort where you have families help plan will drastically increase their interest in participating.

The family engagement examples offered here are only a few ideas out of a million that are out there. Start this process by sitting down on your own or with staff to brainstorm what you are already doing in your program to engage families. As you move forward to implement new ideas, make sure your staff is on board– classroom teachers are the most immediate connection from your program to your parents and they can play a big part in whether families choose to engage. Finally, don’t forget that you can always contact your local YoungStar office for assistance in receiving additional technical assistance for family engagement, and to access family engagement trainings in your area.

Take the supports you need, and have fun with this process! In the end, engaging your families in your program will not only make it a more positive, fruitful learning experience for the children, it will prove a valuable partnership for you and your program.

*Most definitions, examples and possible barriers were pulled from the Family (p.52-66) or Group (p.72-86) 2016 YoungStar Draft Evaluation Criteria, and related documents. If you are a school-age provider, or a licensed day camp, explore your family engagement criteria in the school-age provider 2016 criteria (p.60-73) or the licensed day camp 2016 criteria (p.60-73). Many of the examples given can be used across program types, whether family, group, school-age, or day camp.