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).

Advertisements

A Peek at a Parent Café: The Parenting Place

A series of Parent Cafés, coordinated state wide by Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) and planned locally by some of our member agencies, have kicked off with the first café of the year in Tomah, Wisconsin. The Parenting Place did a fantastic job with their café on the theme of “Taking Care of Yourself,” starting off with a healthy family breakfast for children and parents to eat together before children went to another room where child care was provided, so parents and caregivers could engage in peer-to-peer discussion. After getting to know one another through active listening, parents participated in several small group discussions guided by a parent or agency staff member using a parent café tool kit that focuses questions on building the protective factors. Eventually the goal is for all café discussions to be led by parents who are familiar with the process. At the end of these discussions parents shared some final thoughts they gained from the café:

  • I realize that there are others around you who are strong and can be a source of support
  • Often children of different ages pose the same challenges
  • I am not the only one dealing with different issues within my family
  • It is important to be my best self to be the best parent I can be, and everyone wants the best for their kids
  • It is okay to do for myself (self-care)
  • You are not perfect and you are not expected to be

Closing words shared by participants proved the café a success, expressing their café experience with sentiments such as “community,” “perspective,” “comfort” and “balance.” A few lucky participants went home with gift certificates from local businesses to pamper themselves, and children took home an art project they worked on about healthy bodies. Here are a few of the decoration and other ideas from this café, to inspire your own:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Interested in attending a parent café in Wisconsin, or learning more about parent cafés? Check out the SFTA website.