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Refugee And Immigrant Children In Canada Social Work Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Refugee and immigrant children and youth along with their families comprise the majority of Canadian society. Refugees and immigrants are the mosaic face of present day society. We as citizens have witnessed the process newcomers experience in order to receive their Canadian status. As we are aware of the possible complications that can arise both the Rossiter and Rossiter (2009) article along with Fantino and Colak (2001) article shed an interesting light on migration. These articles discuss how youth challenge these barriers to gain identity in the new society, how issues arise between their inner self and society and also how society can contribute to migration complications. The articles also review how society can be seen to have a positive impact to their experience during migration and adaptation. Both articles assume a similar theme when discussing the challenges/troubles these youth and children encounter during their acculturation period.

Summary of articles: 

                “Diamonds in the Rough: Bridging gaps in support for at-risk immigrant and refugee youth” summarized the troubles both within the individual and society that is creating a gap within the youth. The gap between individual and society is brought to point in this article as creating a behavior in the youth to engage in high-risk criminal behaviors. Rossiter and Rossiter (2009) focus on the risk and protective factors that are “perceived by key stakeholders to influence ‘at-risk’ immigrant youth who eventually become involved in crime, gangs and violence in Edmonton, Canada” (Pg. 2).  Rossiter and Rossiter (2009) organize their article on the view of immigrant and refugee youth behavior by discussing immigrants and crime, bringing upon a theoretical background focused on Maslow’s theory and how Maslows Hierarchy of need provide insight as to how inner fulfillment discourages “negative” actions/thoughts/behaviors.  

                Rossiter and Rossiter (2009) review a study that was conducted in order to attain a deeper perspective of the migrating youth into Canadian society; they discuss the risk factors both in the community setting and within the individual. These studies first discussed negative factors affecting the youth and positive factors assisting the youth to not fall into criminal behavior. Lastly, both authors discuss a “solution” that I would like to classify it in order to understand these gap and “misinterpretation” between a trouble both within and outside the youth.

                Rossiter and Rossiter (2009) state that youth who migrate to Canada with their family are faced with issues from back home, such as “pre-migration violence and trauma were reported to be predisposing risk factors for youth involvement in violent and criminal activity in Canada: many youth from refugee camps have witnessed or experienced violence (e.g. rape, murder, and torture) and suffer from depression, nightmares, flashbacks and or disturbed sleep patterns” (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p. 9). A youth arriving in a country that has already developed their own culture and unique mother of tongue can further create a bigger barrier for the youth in terms of acclimating to this new society, their new home.

                Social services representative discuss the complications of integration that can cause “stress or anxiety-all their symptoms basically prevent them from learning and adapting” (As cited by Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p.9). These youth experience pressure to fit in when it comes to the school system. They are encountered with peer pressure or alienation (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p.9) as “association with antisocial peers, however, can lead to violent altercations and crime (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p.9). Education was one area where it was classified as a positive impact encouraging youth to act in a positive manner (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p.4).  Due to the alienation that youth experience due to the want of fitting in within their peers, criminal justice representative said education was seen as extremely important for immigrant and refugee youth: “Not having [education] is what’s creating the push in the other direction, and having it is what would save them” (As cited by Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p. 13). Creating these barriers furthermore sets this youth to drop out and as a school is seen as a recruitment into drug-related crimes (Pg.10). While seeing the complications that the lack of education can cause we can acknowledge the importance of school and education towards the future of the youth.

                Rossiter and Rossiter (2009) discuss how youth first entering Canada with their families are seen to be lead by the government into subsidized housing (p.11) due to their lack of finances thus, these youth may not have the same economic standing as their peers. This makes the youth feel uncomfortable leading to the youth having to deal with an inner struggle between “wants and needs” (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p. 9). The authors made it clear that contributing factors such as: “family support and stability, socio-economic status, physical and mental health, age of arrival, language proficiency, interpersonal skills social networks, personal resilience, employment opportunities and housing and neighborhood, among others” (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p. 4) are seen as a pushing negative factor and also a helpful positive factor for the youth to get out of troubles in the criminal system. The authors prescribe mentorship and school activities to assist these youth out of the negative criminal behavior (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p. 13-14). They discuss how teachers are “often unaware of the challenges faced by immigrant and refugee students, and the education system itself is ill prepared to meet their complex needs. Isolation and a lack of social support at school and in the wider community mean that immigrant and refugee youth may be left with few options, and antisocial peers involved in drugs, crime and gangs may be perceived as attractive alternatives” (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p.16). Family and community support along with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs should be in place in order to assist these youth.  Families seen to be “living in poverty are often unable to meet the physiological and safety needs of their children; at-risk youth who go to school without breakfast or lunch and live in subsidized housing may be especially vulnerable. Youth who lack close relationships to family, school and community or who suffer from feelings of inadequacy or failure are easy targets for gangs who promise to fulfill their needs for belonging and self-esteem.” (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p.16).

The authors review the negative and positive influences that contribute to the idea of where funding should be focused. The authors provide the reader with a qualitative research method to get a better understanding by talking to adults who experienced youth criminal activities due to the barriers put forth. It is also important to note that the authors touched upon the lack of statistical research that is brought forth to the public that shows if immigrant and refugee youth are the only ones big in numbers in the jail system.

                Refugee children in Canada: searching for an identity written by Fantino and Colak (2001) provide an overview of migration issues that arise and the troubles that these children are faced with pre and post arrival into Canada. Fantino and Colak (2001) discuss how the children migrating with their families bring with them issues that they face while coming to a new country as a refugee “trauma from witnessing violent crimes, language difficulties, family disruption, and adjustment to a different culture-in addition to the challenges that accompany childhood and growing up” (p. 587). Fantino and Colak (2001) draw comparison between immigrant children versus a refugee child. They both write how both classes deal with “migration and endure the ‘push-and-pull’ forces of home and school, which often work in opposite directions” (p.589). As we are taught to believe that immigrants face less barriers due to their receipt of citizenship Fantino and Colak do not fail to portray the similarities of both groups.  Both may encounter society’s discrimination and racism, and developing a sense of identity-while trying to bridge generational and cultural gaps (Fantino and Colak 2001, p.589). “Perhaps the greatest threat to these children is not the stress of belonging to two cultures but the stress of belonging to none” (p.589.) If these children receive a sense of belonging this can open up and increase their self-esteem and further avoid future barriers and inner fights within the child.

                One specific concentration that Fantino and Colak (2001) bring forth is the desire for children in the school setting “to be accepted by their peer group, be seen as a dependent and a master by interpreting for their parents” (Fantino and Colak, 2001, p.589) these factors can contribute to the sense of belonging discussed earlier. These children are in essence parentified as they face the pressure of “interpreting for their parents” (p. 589).  This pressure can have a dramatic effect on the child as they are given adult responsibility in settings they are not familiar with. Fantino and Colak (2001) wonder if children really do “adapt better to society” (p.591). They discuss the trouble of parents with the lack of communication they have with their children (p.590). Fantino and Colak refer to these refugee children as “children without history” (p. 594). Both authors bring forth ideas of the host country providing a positive act in order to make integration as a positive role for the child and family.  One key factor in determining success is the “reception of newcomers by the host society” (p.589). Task force on mental healthi issues affecting immigrants and refugees (1998) writes that “settlement support services, schools, health and social services and the community at large play a crucial role in assisting and supporting children to adjust and integrate into Canadian society (As cited by Fantino and Colak, 2001, p. 589). Fantino and Colak (2001) believe that in order for successful integration we must not ignore the parents who might also be facing trauma prior to arrival. They state that “their challenge is to meaningfully integrate their history with the present and future realities of Canada” (Fantino and Colak, 2001, p.595) it is only until we as Canadians work as a team to provide a safe haven for newcomers where we can assist and cater to their needs to provide them with adequate housing and support systems. As Fantino and Colak discuss migration trouble pre and post migration both authors do not fail to give Canadians a role on easy adaptation and this sense of guidance makes the struggle of migration as a societal problem and not solely a problem just with the migrating child with their family 

 Analytic discussion:

                Both readings discuss the resolutions and the causes of what a child and youth experience as they migrate to a new country. The identified theme of the harm of migration to the individual at hand arises concerns and a deep look at why changes should be in place to assist the migrating newcomers. By looking deeply at the barriers/causes placed by society we will gain insight on understanding why. Both articles gather information by using a qualitative research method that asks children and adults who were deviant youth in the past about problems faced by both immigrant and refugee children and youth; both articles looked at the trouble faced within the individual and the trouble put on by society. Both articles answer questions of why and how these issues arise, both articles discuss solutions and the lack of statistics that would help to really understand the criminal system in regards to over population of immigrant and refugees in the institution.

As both articles take on such approaches to understanding migration and the effect it has on children regarding identity and youth portraying criminal behavior I will provide an analytic discussion in regard to the theme of troubles of migration faced by the immigrant and refugee child and youth. By discussing how the comparison of both articles both discussed the lack of identity the youth and child face, both articles discussed support systems, whether it was lacking or being seen as a great contributor for successful migration, education as a primary target for success in the individual and lastly community assistance that the host community must act upon. As all articles discuss the implication pre and post the child’s and youths migration I still believe that further questions need to be asked in order to get a more holistic and complete view of migration difficulties and criminal behavior that the child and youth experience. 

Who is a refugee or immigrant youth or child when they come to Canada? It is to this thought that we can look at the identity of these young adults and children being challenged when entering a new country such as Canada. We are taught through both articles that when an individual such as a youth and child enter Canada we must realize the issues they have faced at home that might of led them to migrate: “trauma from witnessing violent crimes, language difficulties, family disruption, and adjustment to a different culture-in addition to the challenges that accompany childhood and growing up” (Fantino and Colak, 2001, p. 587). When one reads such statements I can’t help but ask why aren’t these individuals dealing with the issues back home? Could it be that the government can no longer be trusted? Why migrate? Is Canada being portrayed to other countries as a loving, welcoming country? If so, we must change this. Canada being classified as a harmonious country or not has issues of its own. We are dealing with employment difficulties, high taxes, and are still involved in a war where other cultures are still being seen as a threat. Are we setting up this migrating youth with unrealistic expectations of Canada? Is this our fault as Canadians that we are simply setting up a “trap” for this migrating “victims” to have a “difficult” life in Canada?  

                        The issues back home which may have pushed their migration to Canada is not the only issue that these age groups experience. They also witness and experience issues in their new land, and this act should simply put the blame on us, on Canadians. Support system in the school setting is seen to be lacked and to be a great contributor to be the line of helping the youth and child to avoid criminal behavior.

“The development of positive relationships with caring adults in the school setting, such as ESL or mainstream teachers, counselors and school resources officers, was also considered to be a protective factor. In some schools, member of ethno-cultural communities offer approved courses designed to help students develop identity and intercultural competence” (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p. 14).

 After school programs where the student can receive assistance in studies or being involved in recreational activities can provide an outlet for the student to develop an identity by taking interest in other activities and also assisting with developing relationship with other students or guides. This not only provides them with a family setting in the school atmosphere but also an family unit when parents struggle to understand the school setting or simply when parents do not have much involvement with their children due to work or emotional difficulties. “Dedicated workers such as these are helping youth exit gangs, offering them opportunities for success and keeping others from becoming involved with drugs and crime” (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p. 14) As this form of assistance provides the assistance of the host community it shows how we can contribute positively to the outcome of the future of the new generation. As this is so, we must be aware of the access these children and youth have to schooling. Funding is needed for better schooling not only for these newcomers but also for youth all around. “In Canada the cost to incarcerate a youth for 1 year is approximately $100,000” (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p.3), and sending your child to school has no cost then leaves the question of why spend so much in incarcerating youth involved in criminal activity when such money can go into schooling where programs can arise from? As “we should be addressing the crime taken in each community” (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p. 3) we know that education can be seen as a way out for these youth to avoid them from falling into a trap of gang involvement and provide these children with a sense of identity and skills this is an investment that will not only help the migrating newcomer individual but where society would also benefit from. Derwing et al. (1999) and Watt and Roessingh (1994,2001) state that “studies of school dropout rates of immigrant youth have indicated that 46-74% of immigrant youth whose native language is not English fail to complete high school” (As cited by Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p. 4) doesn’t society see the need for funding? 

Community assistance needs to be put in force in order for these youth and children to experience an easy adaptation to Canadian society. Communities provide a learning experience by comforting the individual and providing an exit from any future criminal activity that might come through the youths and child’s life. “These could be centralized in a love reception center, with ongoing follow-up and support in school and community setting” (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p.17.) Providing these follow-ups with children, youth and their families will give these newcomers being a immigrant or refugee a voice and provide a further perspective of changes and improvements that could be more active.  “Social services assistance: including language translation services; help in location permanent housing and accessing English language classes; a community orientation; referrals to health and social services; including professional counseling services; and other services as needed” (Fantino and Colak, 2001, p. 590). Such services can also be seen to benefit the family unit as a whole as it is helping all members of the family to access and be aware of the services provided by the host community, and can also be seen as a contributor in helping family bonds strengthening when migration can be viewed as a challenging phase for the family. Permanent housing should include specifications and be geographically located where criminal behavior is not the face of that community. “Peer ambassador programmers that carefully match newcomers with more established immigrants from the same culture can also be very helpful” (Fantino and Colak, 2001, p.590) If newcomers encounter other newcomers they will feel a sense of  hope as they will see that their present challenges were possible to be overcome; this will provide the recent newcomer with a sense that they can do it.

We can make a change, so why in a country where “11.2% of the total population of 31 million identify themselves as members of a visible minority” (Fantino and Colak 2001, p.588) are being faced with such troubles? In a country where employment is seen as hard to get regarding youth employment why are we not addressing this problem? We realize that the Canadian Baby Boomers are affecting work labor in the present society (Foot, 1998, 82) so how can we assist these youth to find a job when the baby boomers are occupying the majority of the labor market? Do we need more jobs specifically targeted to this population? Why are we still letting in refugee and immigrant families when we can barely assist those already in Canada? Why is Canada still setting up a trap for these newcomers? As I agree with the standings and arguments/solutions that both articles make, I do believe that more questions need to be asked, mostly questions regarding Canada and why Canada is still letting this happen. Heller (1995) along with Jiwani (2002) and Roberts (2002) state that “ethnic minorities and those with English or French language difficulties, are disproportionately represented in the Canadian criminal justice system” (as cited by Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p. 2) and Canada’s lack of providing statistics related to race and ethnicity can further show that numbers need to be put into place in order to understand migration issues and complication. Without numbers can it be fair to say that Canada is contributing to the problem? Without numbers can Canada take a position and assist solely on word of mouth? Providing this overview can be frustrating to understand how to tackle such an issue of migration, but I do believe that in order for us to understand, numbers that are lacked in the prison system if minorities really do make up the population in the jail system needs to be placed. Rossiter and Rossiter state that such a study might “increase discrimination towards these individuals” (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p.3) but how can we help a group without knowing statistics? Since Rossiter and Rossiter tackles such a perspective it leaves the question if Fantino and Colak say that the host community must assist these newcomers due to the issues surrounding this population how can we assist youth as a community when we are unaware of youth involvement in criminal behavior for example? Without data, Canadians are left in the dark, and this must change.  We must make a change to recognize these newcomers’ diplomas (Rossiter and Rossiter, 2009, p.4.) and degrees to set them up for the work field in order for fairness and these barriers to fall down in favor of those newcomers.

My approach to the solution of ending criminal behavior is to look at societal resolutions and also understand the change that needs to be placed. I believe that working with the individual and not for the individual will further assist these individuals on a personal identity level and guide them through the services that can help. Both articles bring upon an analytical overview of migration and the effects brought on by the host community and the services lacking these migrating youth and children. As we understand migration to have a negative effect on individuals we also must not rule out the good that migration can do, such as providing a safe haven for these newcomers from escaping from the harsh realities they faced back home. By communities gathering as a welcoming committee in order to provide the newcomers with a welcoming atmosphere the community must do more than accept the realities of just adapting to a mosaic country. We must work together to provide support for the child, youth and their families. We must acknowledge the contributions that each youth and child carries within them and be culturally accepting. It can be instilled that the children are our future, and no matter what country these children and youth come from, all should be given a fair opportunity.   

 


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