ACCULTURATION: A STUDY OF THE INTEGRATION OF IMMIGRANT, REFUGEE SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN IN A LARGE METROPOLITAN AREA
CATHERINE OKUCHABA-THOMPSON B.A., Regis University, 2014
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Psychology School Psychology Program
CATHERINE OKUCHABA-THOMPSON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This thesis for the Doctor of Psychology degree by Catherine Okuchaba-Thompson has been approved for the School Psychology Program by
Bryn Harris, Chair Franci Crepeau-Hobson Rachel Stein
Date: May 18, 2019
Thompson, Catherine Okuchaba (Psy.D., School Psychology Program)
Acculturation: A Study of the Integration Process of Immigrant, Refugee School-Age Children in a Large Metropolitan Area.
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Bryn Harris
The present study explores the experiences of immigrant/refugee school age children as they integrate into a new host culture during the initial five years of resettlement. Specifically, the study sought to investigate the programs and services offered by community, school, and resettlement agencies that encourage acculturation. Using a qualitative design, the study investigates the impact of acculturation in newcomer school-age children through the perspectives of agency spokespersons, educators, and community liaisons. Through in-depth, semi-structured interviews participants were asked to share their stories of personal experiences working with the immigrant/refugee population. Participation in the study was limited to experts having at least two yearsâ€™ experience working with immigrant/refugee school age children who have settled in the United States within the last five years. The research sought to answer the following questions:
1) In what ways do school, community, and parent supports impact social and academic development in newcomer children? 2) What systems are in place that address the diverse religious and cultural needs of newcomer children? 3) What are the challenges to successful adjustment into a host culture? 4) What are the sociocultural protective factors that encourage successful integration?
Findings from this research were significant, suggesting that newcomers experience varying levels of acculturation dependent upon their engagement in social activities, language acquisition, previous trauma, community resources and school programs. Participants spoke
about systematic and personal challenges that impact successful integration. Interviews also exposed obstacles experienced by newcomer children and their families that prevent access to education and employment. Qualitative findings also support the notion that relationships are essential in successful acculturation. Additionally, partnerships between schools, community agencies, and newcomer families are a critical factor in the long-term adjustment. Finally, recommendations for future research and implications for the field of school psychology were discussed.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Bryn Harris
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Purpose of the Study............................................................7
Significance of the Study.......................................................8
II: REVIEW 01 LITERATURE.........................................................10
Immigration in the United States...............................................10
Immigration in Colorado........................................................11
Challenges to Integration......................................................14
Age and Acculturation.....................................................14
Challenges in Schools..........................................................18
Programs and Services..........................................................19
Family School Relationships...............................................19
Cultural Orientation Programs..................................................20
III: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY............................................22
Research Methods and Procedure.................................................22
Nature of the Study.....................................................................23
Sampling Frame/Consent Process..........................................................25
Characteristics of Sample...............................................................26
Data Collection Methods.................................................................28
Procedure and Instruments...............................................................30
Theme 1: Parent and Community Engagement................................................40
Theme 2: Programs and Services..........................................................41
Theme 3: Barriers to Integration........................................................42
Theme 4: Positive Projected Outcomes/Celebrations.......................................43
Trustworthiness, Credibility and Reliability............................................73
Themes Across Cases.....................................................................74
Building Strong Relationships..................................................74
Creating Streamlined Procedures................................................75
Peer Leaders and Community Mentors.............................................76
Continued and Repeated Opportunity to Engage with the Local Community..........76
Language and Academic Support..................................................76
Mental Health and Education Services...........................................77
Family Engagement Support......................................................77
Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research............................79
Implications for School Psychology Practice....................................81
Culturally Competent Practice..................................................82
Encouraging Systems Change.....................................................82
A. Consent Form...............................................................87
B. Interview Protocol.........................................................91
C. Conceptual and Operational Definitions.....................................92
LIST OF TABLES
1. 1951-2000 U.S. Immigration.....................................................4
2. Characteristics of Participants...............................................27
3. Participant Response Frequency................................................32
4. Open Codes Q1...............................................................34
5. Open Codes Q2...............................................................36
6. Open Codes Q3...............................................................38
7. Open Codes Q4...............................................................39
As early as the late 19th and 20th centuries, people have traveled from their homelands to the United States in hopes of a better life (Hanna & Ortega, 2017). Each traveler arrives with a personal story and varied reasons for seeking refuge; reasons which include: asylum, educational opportunities, or perhaps simply a new beginning (Kaun, 2008). Increased immigration in the late 1700s prompted the establishment of in the 1790â€™s. During this time, the government sought to mandate the incoming and outgoing activities of the foreign-bom residents residing in the United States. According to the law, free residents deemed as having â€œgood moral character,â€ and who lived in the country for at least two years were eligible to apply for citizenship.
During the period of 1815-1920, many immigrants from Northern and Western Europe took settlement (Hatton, 1998). This was in addition to an estimated 500,000 to 650,000 Africans who were brought to the United States as slaves (â€œU.S. Immigration Before 1965â€, 2009). Due to the extraordinarily large number of immigrants who arrived, this period in American history has been widely described as the â€œera of mass immigration.â€ Hatton (1998) explains that much like the immigrants preceding them, these newcomers migrated with aspirations fueled by dreams of a new world that would bring jobs, a better economy, rich soil, and wealth. Other motivations for migration were brought on by hardships, such as: war, famine, religious and political persecution (Marsella & Ring, 2003).
However, despite the hopeful expectations of these â€œnewcomersâ€, settlement did not come without difficulty as many immigrants were confronted with new economic and social hardships, including inequality, prejudice, and poor living conditions, which followed them to the United States (Haines, 2015). Turner (2018), discusses the lived experiences of German,
Irish, and Italian immigrants arriving in the United States during the late 1800â€™s. He notes that they experienced poverty, prejudice, religious persecution, and challenges to overcome language barriers.
These travelers were given many names: immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and in recent years â€œnewcomers.â€ They are described as people who leave their home of origin to settle in a new homeland for temporary or permanent periods (Schwartz, Zamboanga, & Szapocznik, 2010). For the purpose of this study, the term â€œnewcomerâ€ will be used to refer to this population. This study will explore the factors associated with a newcomerâ€™s adjustment into the host society. The resulting process of adapting to a new environment experienced by immigrants is frequently called acculturation, integration, biculturalism, assimilation, integration, or cultural integration. Redfield, Linton, & Herskovits (1936) refer to this experience as the first-hand contact between groups of individuals of differing cultural origins. This study will use the terms acculturation and integration interchangeably when discussing this process.
In 1860, incoming immigrants to the United States were generally of European decent, arriving from Southern and Eastern Europe and making up 75% of the countryâ€™s population. By 1865, the immigrant population had grown to include individuals with origins from Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa (Grieco & Trevelyan, 2010). According to the data, there was a gradual decrease in immigrants in the United States between 1920 and 1970, at which time the numbers began to steadily increase again. Subsequently, new immigration policy such as the 1965 Immigration Act brought changes to the origins of immigration policy and allowed for increased authorized immigration into the United States. This in turn resulted in family reunification and work-related immigration (Lee, 2015). Most notable, was the upward trend in immigration following this policy reform (Hatton, 2015). Unfortunately, the policy changes were met with mixed impressions. Some economists argued that the Immigration Act
forced a slump in terms of assimilation, increased welfare dependence, and limited immigrant self-sufficiency (Hatton, 2015). These deficits were reportedly of great concern, as many believed assimilation was the best measurement of successful integration into the host culture (Diane, 2012). Assimilation, as defined by Morawka (2009), is the replacement of old country bonds, customs, and attachments with mainstream American culture.
The Refugee Act of 1980 led to the creation of a Federal Refugee Resettlement Program that would provide a more systematic process for the admittance and absorption policies for refugees (Leibowitz, 1983). With the Refugee Act, refugees were anticipated to achieve economic self-sufficiency shortly after arriving in the United States (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.p.). As a result, the United States has seen new waves of immigration between 1970 to 2000 resulting in approximately 28.4 million foreign-born adults and children residing in the United States (Rong & Brown, 2002). Interestingly, it is reported that 8.6 million are school-age children (Camarota, 2001). According to Grieco and Trevelyan (2010), the year 2009 brought with it a total of 38.5 million foreign-born individuals into the United States. Similarly, the Yearbook of Immigration and Naturalization Service (2000) reported that the percentage of immigrants from Europe declined from 52.7 percent in 1951-1960 to 14.9 in 1991-2000, while immigrants from Asia, the Americas (i.e., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South, America), Africa, and Oceania increased steadily over those years. The reported numbers are representative of documented immigrants and may not fully represent an accurate number of immigrants during this period. The results of this report are illustrated in Table lbelow.
Table 1. Data gathered from the Yearbook of Immigration and Naturalization Service (2000) Retrieved from https://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/yearbook/2000/Yearbook2000.pdf.
Table 1. - Source Area Composition of U.S. Immigration, 1951-2000 (Percent of total from each source)
Region of Origin 1951-1960 1991-2000
Europe 52.7 14.9
Western 49.8 5.9
Eastern 2.9 9.0
Asia 6.1 30.7
Americas 39.6 49.3
Canada 15.0 2.1
Mexico 11.9 24.7
Caribbean 4.9 10.8
Central America 1.8 5.8
South America 3.6 5.9
Africa 0.6 3.9
Oceania 0.5 0.6
Totals (000s) 2,515 9,095
Longitudinal data from the United States Census Bureau suggests that there were steady increases in the foreign-born population within the United States beginning in the 1900â€™s. For instance, there were 10.3 million immigrants in the United States in 1900, this corresponds to a percentage of 13.6%.While this number steadily increased in 1910 (13.5million), 1920 (13.9 million), and 1930 (14.2 million), the United States experienced a decline in the immigrant population in 1940 (11.6 million), 1950 (10.3 million), 1960 (9.7 million), and 1970 (9.6
million). However, beginning in 1980, there data from the census bureau shows significant increases in the immigrant population leading up to the demographic changes seen in the United States today. The population growth was as follows: 1980 (14.1 million), 1990 (19.8 million), 2000 (31.1 million), 2010 (40.0 million), and 2014 (42.4 million) (Camarota & Zeigler, 2016).
Many states in the United States have seen a growth in their newcomer populations, and Colorado is no exception. A nearly 20% increase in Denverâ€™s population in 1990 was mainly attributed to a wave of immigrants from Mexico (Brookings Institute, 2003). In 2014 Colorado accounted for 10% of the foreign-born population (â€œImmigrants in Colorado,â€ n.d.) in the United States. In more recent reports, the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, noted that 537,066 immigrants (foreign-bom individuals) reside in Colorado, equating to 9.8 percent of the stateâ€™s population (Camarota & Zeigler, 2016). In short, this means that 1 in 10 Colorado residents are foreign bom individuals. Moreover, data captured in 2015 suggested that 20% of the Colorado student population were immigrant students, which is a dramatic increase from 5% in 1980 (Camarota & Zeigler, 2016). In fact, in 2017 the Colorado Department of Education reported that 11,657 school aged children ages 3-21 were enrolled in Colorado schools; an increase of 2,776 from the year prior (Kids count data center, 2018). Hence, with the increasingly diverse and continually changing student demographic in Colorado, cultural orientation programs and practices should be viewed as a vital factor in state-wide student achievement. According to the Colorado Office of Economic Security (2018), 37% of refugees in Colorado are children with families settled within three main areas in Colorado: Greely (13%), Metro Denver/Aurora (80%), and Colorado Springs (7%).
With the introduction of newcomers in Colorado school systems, districts and schools are searching for ways to meet the diverse needs of their students. Foremost, schools are adopting English Language Acquisition programs that will address the needs of their English Language
Learners (ELL). The purpose of these programs is to help students achieve academic gains through educational and social support to immigrants and their families (Leaks and Stonehill, n.d.). Most alarming are reports that teachers and school administrators are oftentimes ill-equipped to offer adequate services to meet the needs of immigrant and refugee students; primarily lacking in training regarding how to support foreign bom students as they navigate multi-cultural boundaries (Yeboah & Smith, 2017). Additionally, there are a number of risk factors that immigrant children are exposed to, including an increased risk of depression, suicidality, and low school performance (Collins, 2010). Moreover, research suggests these risk factors are often a result of poverty, poor schools, neighborhood violence, discrimination, and disparities in access to healthcare, education and employment, resulting from poor psychosocial adaptation.
The goal of this study is to gain information about the ways that community organizations and public schools can better support immigrant students, as research suggests that biculturalism often proves to be a genuine asset, causing children to achieve superior levels of educational and social performance (Diane, 2012). This study sought to investigate the following: programs and services offered to immigrant school age children by resettlement and community agencies, the ways in which these programs promote and aide in the process of cultural integration; the relationship between public schools, resettlement agencies, and communities; and finally, program outcomes and student success stories, as reported by interviewed resettlement agency representatives and school liaisons. The next chapter will explore any gaps in the existing research, discuss the varying debates and explore previous research findings surrounding the topic of acculturation.
Purpose of the Study
The research regarding the benefits of acculturation is compelling. However; one may ask how a newcomer can successfully navigate through the many obstacles of understanding a new culture while maintaining identity. Such a task may present as even more challenging for a young child or adolescent, who may feel overwhelmed by the rapid changes in environment, academic challenges, and peer relationships. Research has shown that academic success is, in many ways, directly correlated to social success (Kern and Friedman, 2009). Interestingly, longitudinal research has shown that childrenâ€™s academic and social skills reach a point of stability during their early to middle childhood (La Paro & Pianta, 2000). For a refugee child this may not be the case, as they may have arrived in the United States having several gaps in their education, and a traumatic background, thus lacking comparable developmental opportunities and skills to their peers. Significant gaps in the research exist regarding the experiences of school age immigrants/refugees. As the immigrant/refugee population in the United States is growing, and their experiences are continually evolving; so, should the research.
The purpose of this study is to understand the acculturation process of immigrant/refugee school age children by examining the cultural orientation programs and services offered by resettlement agencies, schools, and community organizations located in the Denver/Metro area. In addition, specific familial and community factors were also explored. The central research questions guiding this study were:
1. In what ways do school, community, and parent supports impact social and academic development in newcomer children?
2. What systems are in place that address the diverse religious and cultural needs of newcomer children?
3. What are the challenges to successful adjustment into a host culture?
4. What are the sociocultural protective factors that encourage successful integration? Significance of the Study
The ultimate goal of the study is to understand the factors associated with resettlement. Specifically, that way in which acculturation is experienced by school-age newcomer children who have recently entered the public-school system. Additionally, that this study will add to the body of knowledge surrounding the ways that community organizations and public schools support immigrant students, as research suggests that biculturalism often proves to be a genuine asset and has caused children to achieve superior levels of educational and social performance (Diane, 2012).
In the current investigation, school age refugee/immigrant children were deemed the acculturating group, however, their experiences were shared from the perceptions of school and community agencies. Interviews were conducted with organizations that assist families during the initial and critical years of adjustment into life in Colorado. Specifically, the information gathered sought to address acculturation experiences among school aged children in Colorado public schools. Though research exits regarding immigrant experiences, there is still a great deal that can be learned regarding social adjustment associated with acculturation.
In a previous study called, Cultural Orientation of Refugees (2008) the researcher sought to better understand the process of resettlement through the impressions of voluntary and assigned agencies that work with the Colorado refugee population within the Denver Metro Area. This study focused on increasing the body of knowledge about the refugee experience. The study further sought to answer the following questions: (1) who the refugees are; (2) how they acculturate to new environments; (3) what their successes and challenges are; (4) what assistance are refugees receiving in the process; (5) what is working and what is failing.
The original study was conducted ten years ago, thus, a new analysis of current changes in the immigrant population in Colorado is needed.
In another study conducted by the Colorado Department of Human Services, a cohort of â€œNewcomerâ€ refugees were surveyed over the course of four consecutive years (2011-2012 through 2014-2015) as part of a study called the Refugee Integration Survey and Evaluation (RISE). Within the study, artifacts were collected, interviews were conducted, and participants were surveyed in order to explore acculturation experiences (Lichtenstein, G. P. J, Engleman, A., & Miller, M., 2016). Findings from the study were particularly revealing and indicated growth toward high integration as an entire cohort. In addition to the overall study findings, there were several notable remarks. For instance, results from the survey indicated that 92% of the cohort maintained steady employment, resulting in a reported increase in family income and as such increased integration. In terms of participants who had medical insurance, 76% of participants exhibited a steady improvement of English language proficiency; most notably, refugees reported feeling safe within their homes and outside of the home. All participants applied for a green card and reported a desire to become U.S. citizens. Refugees with disabilities and those who were 55 years and older reported significantly more challenges with language adjustment and feelings of social isolation. Additionally, up to 61% of participants reported that their family income was too low to cover their living expenses. Finally, fewer than half (48%) of participants regularly spoke with people whose first language is English.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE Immigration in the United States
Upon entry into the United States, the Department of State (DOS) partners with the Department of Health and Human Services to place refugees in host communities throughout the country as part of the Receptionist and Placement Program (Office of Refugee Resettlement, 2012). In addition, the DOS and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) have formed a cooperative relationship with nine domestic voluntary agencies (VOLAG) (Bruno, 2011). VOLAGâ€™s place refugees in one of 190 host communities throughout the United States (The Refugee Placement Program, n.d.). Placement is based on the needs of the individual or family and the available resources within each community. Some of the resources considered include the availability of interpreters who speak the newcomerâ€™s native language, the size and features of housing, schools with special services, medical care, English classes, and employment services (Bruno, 2011). Still, there has been some debate regarding the communities where newcomers are placed after arriving. One reason for the debate is that the regulations set by the United Stated Refugee Act of 1980 prohibited the intentional distribution or resettlement of refugees in an area that is highly impacted by the presence of refugees or comparable populations (ORR, 2012). However, this contradicts acculturation research, which suggests that maintaining oneâ€™s original culture while interacting with other groups is considered the best approach to integration (Berry, 2007). Yet, in some cases, newcomers are placed in neighborhoods that do not include other individuals of similar ethnicity, thus, creating an additional challenge to maintaining cultural connectedness (Katz, Noring, and Garrelts, 2016).
Immigration in Colorado
Historically, Coloradoâ€™s refugee population has been small in relation to other states, but in recent years, settlement patterns have changed greatly following fluctuations in immigration policies, practices, and border control (Hanna and Ortega, 2017). Currently, more than 10,000 refugees and immigrants consider Colorado their home (Minor, 2017). These refugee communities include immigrants from Vietnam, Soviet Union/Russian Republic, Burma, Somalia, Bhutan, Iraq, Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Laos to name a few. Within the increased population of newcomers in Colorado, many are children.
According to a study conducted by the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), a total of 11,657 school-aged immigrant students were enrolled in schools throughout the Denver Metro area in 2017 (â€œImmigrant students,â€ 2018). The study researched individuals within the ages of 3 to 21, who were not born in the United States and have been attending one or more schools for more than 3 full academic years (â€œImmigrant students,â€ 2018). Nationally, records indicate that there were 16.1 million refugees worldwide in 2016, and of this number, more than half of them were children and at least 6 million were of primary and secondary school age (UNHCR, 2016). Similarly, the Public Use Microdata Areas report, which compiles data from the Census Bureau, determined that there has been significant growth in the number of immigrant students in public schools within the last two decades, equating to 1 in 4 students (PUMAs, n.d.).
There are a number of community and resettlement agencies located within the Denver Metro area that work with schools and other organizations to offer services which support refugees and immigrants in the resettlement process. For instance, the Colorado State Departments Colorado Refugee Service Program (CRSP) collaborates with up to 130 nongovernmental agencies to assist with education, legal, citizenship, health, training, employment, and financial services to refugee and immigrant families (Denver Immigrant Community and
Neighborhood Assessment, n.d.). Additionally, these organizations frequently ensure that newcomers receive support in the areas of language acquisition services; assistance with school related conferences; literacy development; access to free school lunch programs; referrals for immunizations, and health services (â€œNewcomer Resources, n.d.â€). These agencies regularly provide child care assistance, career/education services, mental health support, disability and refugee elder programs. Their services also include resources to address relationship and social problems such as, family crisis support, bullying intervention programs, along with counseling services to address anxiety, depression, and substance abuse (Colorado Department of Human Services, n.d.).
Conversely, at the school level, in-house programs include, interpretation/translation services, special education, college and career readiness, and English as a Second Language (ESL) services that are available to children and their families in most districts (Bridging Refugee Youth & Childrenâ€™s Services, n.d.).
Acculturation has been described as the process of cultural and psychological change that occurs in response to intercultural contact (Berry, 2003). Individuals are said to achieve successful integration when adaptation into a new culture occurs along with a level of endorsement from the new culture (Hou, Y., Neff, A.L., & Yeong Kim, S.). This also occurs when two or more cultures begin to adopt shared attitudes, cultures, and opinions (Verbeek, 2008). For instance, a newcomer, defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a foreign-bom person who has recently arrived somewhere or who has recently started a new activity, should be encouraged to immerse themselves into the host culture, while continuing to celebrate their culture identity and development of self. This process promotes a blended cultural orientation (Cabassa 2003). Essentially, this means that both the individual and the host community evolve;
adopting the dominant cultureâ€™s value systems and norms and acquiring the mainstream language (Kang, 2006). However, Berry (1997), explains that immigrants often struggle with the decision to refute their culture of origin and assume mainstream culture. Theorists have noted that acculturation occurs at both individual and group levels (Barry, 2003). Barry (2003) further explained that at the individual level the changes are closely related to self-identity such as values, attitudes, and beliefs, whereas at the group level, changes occur through social and cultural systems. Researchers have found elements that encourage cultural integration including: linguistic integration, labor market integration, civic/political integration, education integration and residential integration (Somers & Dunn, 2018). Language acquisition, interpersonal relationships, values, and attitudes are additional factors that are said to contribute to successful integration (Unganer, 2014).
Moreover, acculturation is described as possibly the most important aspect of maintenance and adoptions (Celeste, Meeussen, Verschueren & Phalet, 2016). It is said to contribute to better intergroup relationships (Berry, 1997). In addition, Antonio & Benedicta-Monteiro (2015) discuss several positive impacts of acculturation, including: improved selfesteem, less acculturation stress, better school performance, and higher well-being. Additionally, a study which explored minority acculturation and peer rejection found that maintaining adoption norms of acculturation promotes engagement with the majority culture, while maintenance increases preservation of heritage norms (Celeste et. al, 2016). Ray (2002) described the measurement of cultural integration as the sense of belonging to the receiving society, quality of cultural contact between groups, convergence of child rearing practices and the degree to which cultural groups remain separate. This theory suggests that successful integration into the host culture involves a level of investment from the dominant culture.
Challenges to Integration
Age and Acculturation
Previous researchers have debated and explored the way in which individuals integrate between their home and host cultures, specifically the impact of age on acculturation (Yeh,
2003). According to the research, acculturation occurs at varying degrees within the population, and often differs greatly dependent upon age and gender (Elder, Broyles, Brennan, Zuniga & Nader, 2005). For instance, there are generational differences in the rate at which newcomers acquire the English language. In fact, Toppelberg & Collins (2012) explain that in many cases newcomer children acquire English at a faster rate due to the demands to learn English upon entrance into school, thus causing a shift in the use of their first language (LI). Moreover, some studies have shown that second generation1 immigrants are exhibiting LI language loss and becoming more English dominant at a much faster rate than seen in previous waves of immigration (Portes, A., & Schauffler, R. 1994, as cited by Toppelberg & Collins, 2012).
Unganer (2014), attributes this shift in language acquisition to social distance and feelings of alienation, which lead to an increased desire to master their L2 language.
Still, research has shown that there are other age-related factors that impact acculturation. Berry (2005) lists a number of factors which influence individual levels of acculturation such as, the age of the individual at the time of immigration, level of comfort, frequency of contact with members of the host culture, and differences in values and beliefs. Based on the research, the younger an individual is at the age of acculturation, the more adept they are to assimilate2 (Leyens & Corneille, 1999). Similarly, Wong (2011), notes that second generation children born overseas acculturate at a much faster rate due to level of exposure and social systems which include peers, school, and media. This is in contrast to that of the older generation, who tend to
1 Second generation refers to individuals who are U.S. bom with foreign-bom parents (Harris, 1997)
2 Assimilation: abandonment of the culture of origin to adopt that of the host culture (Levens & Corneille, 1999)
retain the values and belief systems from their culture of origin (Phinny, Horenczyk, Liebkind, & Vedder, 2001). For many immigrant youths, specifically those who are in their adolescent years, this period of adjustment can be especially challenging as it is also a period where they begin to assert their independence, and seek more time spent with friends.
As previously discussed, the process of immigrating into a new culture is not free of strain; some individuals are forced into migration (refugees) while others leave their countries voluntarily (immigrants, sojourners) (Cabassa, 2003). Those who immigrate to new countries for reasons beyond their control often leave the only home they have known, family members and friends, only to arrive in a country where they are alone, do not speak the same language as others, and may have varying levels of education (Cabassa, 2003). In addition, these individuals may have endured trauma, stress and adversity (Birman et al., 2005). It is difficult to measure or fully understand the level of stress driven by their experiences prior to arrival; however, the existence of legitimate post migrant stressors is known. Acculturative stress is referred to as the stress brought on by unique cultural risk factors such as the combination of psychological, somatic, and social stressors associated with the process of adaptation into a host culture (Berry, 2003). Acculturative stress is said to occur when problems or conflicts in adjustment between the immigrant culture and that of the host society occur (Berry, 2003; Zeiders, Umana-Taylor, Jahromi, Updegraff, & White, 2016).
Upon arrival in the United States, immigrants are tasked with learning a new language, obtaining employment, learning about the school system (if applicable), and adapting to new cultural norms (ORR, 2012). Regardless of the factors, research suggests that stress is associated with socio-emotional wellbeing, academic functioning and physical health outcomes (American Academy of Pediatrics 2015, p.236-237). Mahoney (2008), discussed the intersection of cross
cultures often felt by immigrant adolescents while attempting to tackle sense of identity, and disruption to the sense of self. She further explains that these struggles often lead to sense of inadequacy (Mahoney, 2008).
The process by which refugees migrate to the United States is often filled with devastation and trauma (Cabassa, 2003). Bemak & Chung (2015), note that a refugeeâ€™s departure is often unplanned, and filled with uncertainty in terms of safety, final destination, travel route, and means of travel. While each individual circumstance is unique, the affect is likely traumatic resulting from events that are psychological and physical in nature. Studies have indicated a significant relationship between premigration trauma and successful adjustment and mental health post migration (Miller & Rasmussen, 2010). Additionally, research has shown that trauma greatly inhibits the brains ability to regulate emotional responses (i.e. fear), causing deficits in verbal declarative memory (Bremner, 2006). Moreover, early and continuous exposure to trauma can be a risk factor for the development of anxiety and depressive disorders in adulthood (Kessler and Magee, 1994).
Studies evaluating trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other comorbid conditions suggest that there is a strong correlation between anxiety and depressive disorders, the level of acculturation and presence of acculturation stress in immigrant first generation Mexican Americans (Ehlers, C.L., Kim, C., Gilder, D.A., Stouffer, G.M., Caetano, R., & Yehuda, R., 2016). Similar to acculturative stress, trauma can be categorized into pre and post events occurring either before, after, or during migration. In terms of pre-migrant stress, researchers note that refugees suffer from impairing diagnostic-level psychiatric disorders with the most common being post-traumatic stress disorder (Porter & Haslam, 2005). As we continue to explore the effects of stress on the newcomer population, it is important to understand the
various types of stress they have experienced. These stressors include but are not limited to; those brought on by previous trauma, experiences in a new county, housing stress, mental illness, family separation, and illness.
In a study that explored the prevalence of substance abuse and psychiatric disorders in first generation Mexican Americans, findings indicated a correlation in the increase in frequency as age and time spent in the United States increased (Alderete, E., Vega, W.A., Kology, B. & Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., 2000). This trend is not only seen in immigrants residing in the United States, but also in other countries (Alderete et.al., 2000). Alderete et.al., (2000) further define mental illness such as personality disorders, psychosomatic disturbances and abnormal reactions seen in immigrant workers in Europe. However, there is an ongoing debate regarding whether the prevalence of acculturation stress or trauma effect acculturation and the associated risk factors for mental illness (Ehlers, C.L., Gilder, D.A., Criado, J.R., & Caetano, R., 2009).
The results in a study that sampled young Mexican Americans during the trans-generational process of adapting to living in the United States discovered that there were significant findings in terms of previous trauma and rate of acculturation. Moreover, the outcomes from the study further suggest that an individual having experienced trauma at any level is more likely to exhibit high levels of acculturation stress as reported using an acculturation stress scale (Singh, Lundy, Vidal de Haymes, & Caridad, (2011). Although the direct relationship between trauma and acculturation stress is not fully understood, these findings may imply that individuals who have experienced trauma are also vulnerable and, in some cases, more susceptible to acculturative stress (Mangold, Want, Javors & Mintz, 2010).
Challenges in Schools
Language is not independent of cultural contexts as studies have shown that learning a second language involves linguistic and cultural competence (Culhane, 2004). First language acquisition begins in infancy, and continues through adulthood (Toppelberg, C.O., & Collins, B.A., 2010). In addition, dual language acquisition is greatly dependent on the amount of exposure and the age at which acquisition begins. Individuals typically acquire their first language (LI) in their first three years of life, whereas the second language (L2) is established later (Toppelberg, C.O., & Collins, B.A., 2010). Although an individual who is fluent in two languages is commonly referred to as bilingual, the term dual language does not assume full proficiency of language (Gutierrez, K.D., Zepeda, M., & Castro, D.C., 2010). Hence, an individual having dual language abilities may demonstrate varying skill levels across each language. For instance, dual language children may demonstrate strong L2 abilities with academic related terms, whereas strengths seen in their LI abilities may be stronger regarding interpersonal communication among family members. The extent of language support and exposure are equally as important in terms of LI and L2 development. In contrast, when individuals are submersed in a majority language (e.g. L2) they risk losing a significant amount of acquired language in their dominant LI language (Wong-Fillmore, 1991).
Socially, foreign-born individuals begin to form societal relationships and negotiate their social position in their new communities when given many opportunities for repeated communication activities. Access to communication may occur in non-conventional ways such as with cultural artifacts (e.g. reading a newspaper, exploring the internet, and watching television) (Doucerain, M.M., Varnaamkhaasti, R. S., Segalowitz, N., &Ryder, A. G., 2015). However, when an individual does not begin to develop dual language abilities or exhibit social
integration they are at risk for limited cross-cultural adaptation. Interestingly, Wong-Fillmore (1991), found a correlation between early exposure to English and first language loss, suggesting that this occurs at greater rates in children who are younger when they learn English. According to Snow, (1994) there is a relationship between linguistic environment at home and childrenâ€™s later language competence. This suggests that children require both vocabulary growth and language maintenance cultivated in both academic and home settings. Thus, research has found that children from lower Socioeconomic Status (SES) populations will demonstrate lower language skills than those from higher SES populations (Hoff, 2003).
According to the research it is clear that successful integration is greatly dependent upon increased language development and maintenance of oneâ€™s culture of origin. Furthermore, integration is supported when the opportunities to interact with the new community and use language are many. For school-age children, their community includes their school and neighborhood. This relationship is not limited to the children as it almost equally involves the family engagement and the connection with the school community.
Programs and Services Family School Relationships
While most educational institutions are steadily beginning to meet the linguistic needs of their student populations, research has shown that family-school interactions also play a significant role in a childâ€™s educational experiences (Lareau, 1987). The rate by which parents acculturate is another factor that is said to impact the extent to which newcomer children successfully integrate and adapt into the host culture (Kurtz-Costes and Pungello, 2000). In another study that assessed integration through the perspective of refugee experiences, a positive correlation could be seen between caregiver school interactions and cultural integration. Moreover, the study results revealed that cultural-integration increases as a result of interactions
with teachers, parent attendance at school events, and active volunteering. Additionally, respondents of the study noted that they found additional success when having a close friend at the school who was not from his or her county of origin (RISE, 2016).
Cultural Orientation Programs
Community and government agencies offer cultural orientation programs designed to help with the period of adjustment experienced by children and their families. These programs are meant to provide support to refugees during their advancement into society through instruction and education offered pre-departure and post-arrival (Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange, n.d.). Through these programs, refugees who have recently resettled in the United States can attend classes that will highlight the resettlement process, including United States culture, rights and responsibilities, employment, housing, education, health, and community agencies (Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange, n.d.). After attending these seminars, participants are hoped to have gained a great deal of information about the United States within a short period of time (Colorado Providers for Integration Network, n.d.). Additionally, cultural orientation programs often offer workshops that are designed to provide parents with the skills needed to support children in the process of cultural adjustment. For instance, The Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE), a cultural orientation technical assistance program designed to support with pre-departure and post-arrival resettlement suggests the following as ways to enhance acculturation through family engagement: walking children to school, attending parent teacher conferences, accessing English Spanish Proficiency (ESP) classes, engaging in childrenâ€™s extracurricular activities, working with children on homework, asking children what they learned at school, and volunteering in schools (Cultural Resource Exchange, n.d.).
The review of literature provided a brief understanding of the historical and present contexts surrounding immigration, such as school partnerships, physiological and psychological hardships, and the evolution of theory around integration. In addition, the literature forces us to look at the ways in which a dominant culture may impose or hinder the maintenance of a less influential culture. Thus, the research suggests that there are positive long-term benefits associated with successful acculturation which are greatly influenced by interactions with the host culture. Furthermore, the literature prepares the groundwork to investigate the common themes shared by key informants regarding factors leading to acculturation. Chapter three will discuss the methodology used to research and develop an understanding of the experiences of refugee school-age children and their families during the first years in the United States.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY Research Methods and Procedure
A case study methodology along with a narrative approach was selected as the most appropriate method in exploring the events and experiences related to the integration of school age children. Specifically, Creswell (2013) describes qualitative case study design as an approach in which the investigator explores a real-life system through in-depth detailed data collection methods. The purpose of this study was to investigate programs and procedures which support school age refugee children in successfully integrating into their community. Robson (2011), characterizes qualitative research as one that is flexible rather than fixed, and inductive instead of strict in its sequence.
According to Yin (2009), there are five key components that should be utilized in case study research: research questions, purpose of the study, unit analysis, data linking propositions, and criteria for interpreting data. For this study, the phenomenon under question were the programs and systems which impact acculturation among school-age refugee students. The case in the current study being resettlement agency spokespersons, family/community liaisons, and educators who work with students and families in the Denver-Metro area. For this study, data was collected through the conduction of in-depth semi-structured interviews and a review of existing literature and data. Furthermore, the interview process consisted of audio-recorded conversations which were manually transcribed into word documents and coded for emergent themes. Additionally, a review of current and relevant literature was interpreted. The unit
analysis for this study were K-12 school-age refugee students attending schools in the Denver-Metro areas.
A narrative design approach is said to offer rich insights into the lived experiences of others (Creswell, 2013). Carless, Sparkes, Douglas, & Cooke, 2014 describe this research design method as the particularity and complexity of an individuals lived experience. Furthermore, it allows the researcher to find meaning through dialog with the participant and allows a participant to take the role of the primary expert (McAdams, 1993). Additionally, this design approach is beneficial in understanding lived experiences over time, rather than a static snapshot of a moment (Carless & Douglas 2017). Finally, narrative methods provide a deeper understanding of the way that psychological processes are influenced by sociocultural contexts (McLeod, 1997; Carless & Douglass, 2013).
This chapter will describe the background of a case study, description, and components.
In addition to the abovementioned five key components to case study research, Yin (2009) further notes that the â€œhow and whyâ€ questions must be explored when utilizing this method of research. For the purpose of this study, key spokespersons were interviewed to share about their experiences regarding working refugee children and their families. Participants were asked to describe programs and procedures which promote individual and group level acculturation through family, community and society engagement. In addition, respondents were asked to discuss notable challenges experienced by this population that hinder integration.
Nature of the Study
A qualitative case study design was used to obtain rich and in-depth data about the experiences of school-age immigrant children. Case study research begs to answer the questions â€œwhyâ€ and â€œhow.â€ The purpose of the case study is to evaluate existing programs, and further
analyze the services offered at the school and agency level that reinforce acculturation among school age immigrant/refugee children. Utilizing a case study design method, the researcher can investigate a specific â€œcaseâ€ through interviews, observations, documents and reports that â€œillustrate the issueâ€ (Creswell, 2013, p.99), as well as explore a contemporary bounded system. The case within the research being described as the experiences of refugee and immigrant youth through the perspective of voluntary agencies and schools. Creswell (1998), describes a case study as research that builds an in-depth and contextual understanding of a case through the involvement of multiple data sources (Yin, 2013). Moreover, the issues within each case can be explored within a setting or context (i.e. bounded system), in this case, the ways in which school age immigrant/refugee children experience acculturation.
Findings contributing to the interpretation of the results are drawn from interviews with program directors, and coordinators who have had first-hand experience with programs and services that encourage cultural integration in immigrant/refugee school age children. Interviews were also conducted with school liaisons who collaborate with volunteer and community agencies. There are multiple populations of interest in this study: 1) school-age immigrant and refugee students, preferably those whom have newly arrived in the county within the last five years, and 2) caseworkers, program directors, administrators/coordinators, and families.
The interview protocol from the original study, Cultural Orientation of Refugees by Rachel Verbeek (2008), was modified. Specifically, 11 questions were revised from the original scale. The reason for the revision was to include questions that would elicit a more pointed understanding of the experiences of immigrant/refugee children. For example, to incorporate questions regarding the psychological process of cultural integration and challenges experienced by refugee children including; family-school collaboration, and overall youth experiences. Interviews questions were open-ended (see Appendix A for document titled Service Provider
Interview). Face-to-face and telephone interviews were conducted with agency spokespersons of voluntary and assigned resettlement agencies in the Denver/Metro areas. This interview style allowed the researcher to ask for clarification and elaboration if necessary. The expectation was for the respondent to provide in-depth information about the experiences of refugees/immigrants school age children. The interviews were conducted using an informal and conversational style. Sampling Frame/Consent Process
Appropriate sample size has been a topic of discussion in quantitative and qualitative research. Creswell, and Plano Clark (2011) discuss Purposeful sampling, also known as selective sampling, as a technique which allows the researcher to recruit participants who can provide in-depth and detailed information about the phenomenon under investigation. This method of exploration is said to provide a system to gather knowledgeable individuals and groups who are experienced with the phenomenon of interest. They further explain that the intentional selection of participants leads to information-rich cases (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). For this reason, participants in this study were selected using a pre-determined criterion derived from the research questions.
Participants were recruited via email. The details included in the email discussed the aims of the study such as the: purpose of the study, voluntary participation, confidentiality, limitations, risks, and implications of participation (see Appendix A). Individuals who responded to the email were contacted via telephone to discuss more specific details of the research study and to answer any questions. Each participant gave verbal and written consent and agreed to participate in the study. Participants were also asked to confirm or deny participation in a follow-up interview. No financial compensation was offered to participants.
For the purpose of this study, a â€œsaturationâ€ sampling method was used. Glaser and Strauss (2015), describe saturation as a establishing the projected sample when the information provided
by respondents has reached it level of potential. They further explain that saturation is the point in which no other information can be learned. During the interview phase, the researcher began by selecting three qualifying participants to interview (one resettlement agency representative, one educator, and one community liaison). As the data was gathered it became clear that additional perspectives were needed in order to make a comparison of the findings. As such, the researcher sent out another set of recruitment emailâ€™s resulting in the addition of two resettlement agency spokespersons, and one educator to the study. A convenience sampling was conducted of agencies and schools located in Colorado within the Denver/Metro area and its surrounding cities. For longitudinal purposes, the three agencies from the original referenced study, Cultural Orientation of Refugees, (2008) were recruited to participate.
Characteristics of Sample
Only participants who met the inclusion criteria were included in the study. All of the participants were representatives having direct experience working with first generation immigrant/refugee children and their families. The participants each reported a history of working with the population of interest in their first two to five years of resettlement in the United States. Each representative noted that they held a current role as an agency spokesperson, family liaison, or public-school educator. All participants reported that their experiences working with the population of interest was not limited to interactions within the context of school and community-based activities.
Six key informants participated in this study. When determining the participants of interest for the study, the researcher considered the current political climate regarding immigration reform. After careful consideration, the researcher elected to use participants having a secondhand perspective regarding newcomer experiences. Due to the nature of their work, and the vulnerability of the refugee population, this study will only provide general characteristics of the
participants in order to maintain confidentiality. Sieber (1992), explains that it is the role of the researcher to collect, analyze and report data without compromising the identity of the participants. For this reason, agency/school names and exact locations were not included. Instead, a broad description of participants is provided in Table 2, below.
Table 2: Characteristics of Participants
Participant Job Title Years of Experience Primary Language Countries of Experience
Participant A School Programs Coordinator -spokesperson for a resettlement agency 10 years English Burma, Thailand Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Kairine and Ruanda Afghanistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Karen, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Bhutan and Nepali
Participant B Resettlement Agency Specialist 7 years English Somalia, Congo, Iraq, Syria, Burma, Eritrea, and Ethiopia
Participant C Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist for large metro area district 5 years Spanish Honduras, Mexico, Ethiopia
Participant D Family Mentor Coordinator -Works for a resettlement agency 7 years English Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, Congo, AirTran
Table 2 contâ€™d
Participant E Family Literacy Lead Teacher in a school located in a diverse (community agency) 5.5 years English/Spanish Mexico, Myanmar, Iraq, Guatemala, Somalia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Bhutan, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Togo, China, South Korea, Indonesia, Palestine, Lebanon
Participant F English Language Development Teacher 7 years Chinese/English Mexico, Iraq, Somalia, Congo
Data Collection Methods
Inclusionary and exclusionary criteria questions were asked to control the possibility of confounding variables skewing the data. Utilizing a flexible semi-structured interview format, questions could be asked out of order, expanded upon, or elaborated to create sub-questions when necessary. The semi-structured interview process allowed for an interactive experience in which the examinerâ€™s questions followed a natural schema of the conversation, rather than a rigid questioning style. During the interview, general information was gathered regarding respondents lived experiences working with the immigrant/refugee population.
The interview questions were categorized by Personal experience, Programs that support Acculturation experience, and Challenges to Integration in order to address the broad issues
hypothesized by the researcher. In order to facilitate a rich conversation, the researcher began the interview with a general question, that allowed the interviewee to speak about their overall experiences in an unstructured way. In turn, the researcher shared about her personal experiences and interest working with the immigrant/refugee population. This format allowed for rapport building and promoted cooperation and a natural flow of conversation with the interviewer. Research has shown that an interviewerâ€™s behavior can significantly influence whether respondentâ€™s answers will be accurate and honest (Shaffer, Dykema & Maynard, 2010).
With approval from all participants, interviews were audio recorded and saved to the researchersâ€™ computer for future transcription and analysis. Consent to participate in the study and agreement to the parameters of the audio recordings were signed by each participant. Audio recordings were manually transcribed, into a written text (word) format. A manual transcription method was selected in order to ensure a high rate of accuracy. This method is said to be most effective when there is a risk of mis communicated transcription due to loud ambient noise, rapid speech, accents, slurring, and poor quality of recording (Creswell, 2013). In addition to the audio recordings, hand written field notes containing comments about the environment, researchersâ€™ impressions, and participant behaviors were collected. Field notes are highlighted as a data tracking method often used to identify key points and make note of ideas and trends (Lofland & Lofland, 1995).
Interviews were conducted beginning in November 2018 and finalized in December 2018. The conversations were recorded then transcribed within a two-week period of the interview. All participants spoke English therefore the data did not require additional translation. Under the specifications of the consent agreement all recorded information is scheduled to be destroyed on May 18, 2019 upon fulfillment of the researcherâ€™s graduation requirements.
Additionally, all recordings, electronic files, hard copy transcriptions, and hand-written notes will be maintained in a secure database until the previously mentioned date.
A total of 10 interviews (preliminary and follow-up interviews) were conducted with 6 qualifying participants. The final sample included three resettlement agency representatives, two public school educators, including one English Language Development (ELD) teacher, a speech pathologist, and one community liaison. Information was gathered through face-to-face and telephone interviews, analysis of artifacts, and reflective field notes. Data was collected from all who participated in the study over a six-week period. Participants were recruited via email using a convenience sampling method of agencies and organizations located in the Denver/Metro area. Initial interviews lasted between 40 and 80 minutes. Follow-up interviews were conducted with three participants in order to clarify original responses. Follow-up interviews were conducted between 15 and 30 minutes. Additionally, interviews were conducted in a safe and neutral environment (i.e. participants office, local coffee shop, or telephone) selected by the participant. In order to accommodate the needs of the participants, appointment times were set to meet the schedules and availability of each respondent.
Procedure and Instruments
Aforementioned, a protocol was adapted from a study that was created 10- years ago called Cultural Orientation for Refugees by Rachel Verbeek. Questions from the original study were modified to elicit information that would address the needs of acculturation in school-age refugee children. Thirteen questions were formulated that would address the lived experiences of immigrant/refugee children as seen through the eyes of key informants. As explained by Berg (2001), interview questions should be designed to prompt conversations about the subjectâ€™s thoughts, opinions, and attitudes regarding the study-related issues. As such, the interview questions were structured in a way that sought to investigate the reported experiences of
immigrant/refugee school age children that correlate to integration and acculturation. Questions explored experiences during the school enrollment process, characteristics associated with acculturation, relationships with the school community, access and obstacles to the general education curriculum, family engagement programs, limitations to classroom, community, learning, and social experiences. The interview questions were created in English and read to each participant by the researcher. The final question solicited interest in a follow-up interview. Research Steps
In order to ensure limited risk and to remain in compliance with university regulations, approval was obtained from the Colorado Multiple Institution Review Board. The application process for Expedited Review of Human Subject Research began on July 7, 2018, revisions were requested on September 28, 2018, and full approval was obtained on October 31, 2018. As part of the evaluation, it was determined that the magnitude of harm and discomfort to participants was minimal, and there was no anticipated risk.
During the analysis process, the researcher identified all common statements made by the participants that were deemed significant to the study. These statements were reviewed, analyzed, and grouped into subcategories as they related to the research questions. These categories were instrumental in identifying the codes that would be used in later analysis to find themes. The initial codes are listed below on the frequency table. Groups with greater frequency were considered for the emergent themes and sub-themes. The frequency at which responses were given are illustrated below in Table 3.
Table 3: Participant Response Frequency Table
Coded Groups Participant Number
1 2 3 4 5 6 Totals
Parent Engagement 2 5 6 1 4 18
English/Literacy 9 4 9 22
Limited Language Proficiency 5 2 3 6 4 20
Social Language 2 2 4
Gender Roles 2 1 3
Cultural Considerations 9 1 2 12
Employment 6 2 8
Academic Support 5 4 9
Enrichment Classes 2 4 6
Multi-culture Navigation 5 10 15
Bullying 2 5 7
Isolating 4 2 6
Affordable Housing 1 1
Mental Health (stigmas) 6 3 2 11
Psychosocial Support 1 2 3
Trauma 9 3 12
Teacher Preparedness /Burnout 1 4 3 8
Newcomer Programs 7 3 3 2 15
Unwelcoming/W elcoming schools 8 7 15
Training/ Skill Development 6 3 1 5 15
Interpreters/Cultural Liaisons/Ambassador 3 3
Biases/Equity 5 5
Cultural Orientation Course 5 5 8 18
School Enrollment Issues 4 4
After school opportunities (tutoring) 5 2 2 9
School Enrollment Support 5 5
Check-ins 2 3 6
Community Connections 3 2 6
Case Management 2 1 3 6
Church, Community, refugee interactions 1 2 3
School Education, cultural considerations 10 6 16
Codes were manually transcribed in order to ensure accuracy of participant voices. Ryan
and Bernard (2003) note that interpreting participants lived experiences in their own words leads to a more accurate interpretation of codes. As such, statements taken from each narrative were
initially developed into common codes, then tallied to determine frequency. This process required repeated review for in order to identify a collective meaning. Once processed, these ideas were sorted according to common themes directly related to the research questions. These included: Job duties/roles and responsibilities; refugee barriers for adaptation, integration, and success; countries, languages, and culture; refugee process, procedures, and policies; successes for the process or suggestions for successful integration; mental health implications.
According to Merriam (2009) narrative analysis helps to better understand the lived experiences of others. Merriam further explained that the primary goal of data analysis should be to define and interpret the research questions of a study. Within this investigation, the research questions sought to address the needs of the population of interest in order to better understand strategies that can be used to support this community. The primary goal of the research was to increase the body of knowledge surrounding integration as it relates to the school-age immigrant/refugee population. Specifically, the research sought to identify those programs and processes offered to immigrant, refugee children that promote integration with a host community. Six cases were examined and compared in order to better understand the phenomenon of acculturation. Using the data from the interview, demographic information, and researchers field notes, each narrative was then coded and interpreted to find common themes and patterns.
Interviews for the study were audio-recorded then transcribed verbatim into written form. The transcription process involved repeated interpretation for accuracy. Field notes that were collected by the researcher during interview administration were interpreted for accuracy during the transcription phase. Using an open-coding strategy the researcher color coded to allow for easy identification of emerging themes. The coding process involved looking for commonalities
and differences in participant responses. Following the coding process, the researcher began to identify overarching ideas that would later be identified as themes and the smaller ideas would be categorized as sub-themes.
Table 4: Themes for RQ 1
In what way does the school, community, and parent relationship impact social and academic development in newcomer children?
Theme and subthemes Key Informant Examples
Theme 1: Parent and Community Engagement â€œOur program is about parent engagement at school and helping parents get more involved in the school community.â€ â€œI think that a lot falls on the receiving community and that is the piece that is missing in resettlement is that we focus so much on our clients, but really if the receiving network was much more receiving on a wider scale how great would that be if your neighbor was the one helping you take the bus rather than an agency.â€ â€œDuring our first meeting I show parents how to access their parent portal account, filling out free and reduced lunch applications, check kids grades and attendance online. Most families do not have access to a computer or telephone, so I check in with them again after 90 days to repeat the training.â€
la. Peer Liaisons/ Interpreter Services â€œone of the most successful integration services that we offer is connecting our students with another peer in the building. We have noticed that this is helpful even with kids who do not speak any language.â€
lb. â€œThird Culture Kidsâ€ â€œthird culture kids who are navigating two or more cultures, when they go home their parents tell them that they are acting too American, and when they are at school their peers tell them that they sound too Somali and look too Muslim.â€
Table 4 contâ€™d
lc. Parent/School Relationship â€œIn some schools our clients are really respected, and they make an effort to build out programming so that they can best serve refugee kids, whether that means better labeling of the foods at lunch time to make sure that our Muslim kids for example donâ€™t eat pork products and really trying to find ways to be welcoming and accommodating.â€ â€œFor parents, I see them adjust more quickly the more they get involved-through employment, making friends, getting involved in community groups, etc.â€ â€œWithin our program I have received feedback that kids are working harder because their parents are in the building; parents can better support their kids with homework and academically we offer a parent/student homework club every Tuesday.â€ â€œOur program is focused on parent engagement and helping parents become more involved in the school community, hereâ€™s what this can look like 1 hour of â€œParent and Child Together Timeâ€ parents spend time in their childâ€™s classroom.â€
Id. Case-worker & School Coordinators â€œmy job is to advocate on behalf of the child, so I really interact with the schools.â€ â€œWe are lucky to have a school enrollment volunteer, her role is to help get kids enrolled in schools, help parents understand the paperwork that is coming home, going to parent-teacher conferences, overall helping parents to navigate the school system and support their kids.â€
le. School Enrollment Process â€œwhen they arrive in this country the children do not have supplies, so on the first day I go over to their house with backpacks and school supplies.â€ â€œEvery school is different, and every district looks a bit different in terms of paperwork you need and what the process looks like.â€
Table 5: Themes for RQ 2
What systems are in place that address the diverse religious and cultural needs of newcomer children?
Theme and subthemes Key Informant Examples
Theme 2: Programs and Services â€œWe offer a number of programs that support our clients with making community connections in their neighborhood and in schools.â€ â€œwe provide supplemental academic support.â€ â€œwe offer an in-home tutoring program.â€ â€œwe offer long-term services, to ensure clients are adjusted.â€
2a. Newcomer schools â€œIf a childâ€™s ACCESS scores show that they do not know English, then they will most likely be transferred to a newcomer school where they can receive additional support in English instruction.â€ â€œIn some districts the refugee kids have to go to a specific school and the school is not close to their home, so it means they have to take two to three buses before they get to school.â€
2b. ELD programs/classes â€œIn schools they have specific classes where the children are learning a lot of English in their ELD classes, but when they return to their regular classes if they are having trouble understanding they can come back and learn the material with their ELD teacher.â€
2c. Psychosocial Support Groups â€œWe offer family stabilization services so dealing with any clients who might be encountering higher barriers or higher levels of mental health issues, we connect them with community services and offer our psycho-social support program.â€
Table 5 contâ€™d
2d. Parent Workshops â€œOur organization provide workshops to parents to explain things like how to make maintenance requests on your property, rules and regulations about how old children can be to stay home alone, job readiness, U.S. workforce, and how they can use the experience they are bringing to apply for a career/job in the U.S.â€
2e. Enrichment/Cultural Orientation Classes â€œA big part of it is celebrating your own culture, so when we meet we have time for sharing, playing a game, singing a song and whatâ€™s great about our classes is that our kids are coming from all over the world, so you have 20 different languages and countries of origin in the same classroom and kids are exchanging in a nice, safe environment.â€ â€œWe offer a cultural orientation 40 facts course where families learn about U.S. customs including holidays and laws.â€ â€œWe have to prepare our clients for holidays like Halloween so that clients are not surprised to see people dressed in costumes going door to door and asking for candy.â€ â€œAround the Fourth of July we talk to our families about the fireworks, because we know they can be triggering.â€ â€œOur organization have really robust after school programs that are only offered to high school students to help them get connected. We offer tutoring assistance, four nights a week that we share a meal together.â€
2f. Community Engagement â€œWe offer community gardening, restorative yoga, cooking classes.â€ â€œWe try to connect our families with a cultural ambassador, who is like their first â€œfriendâ€ their role is to take the family around their neighborhood, help them find ethnic grocery stores, understand how to shop, explore and connect with the broader community.â€
Table 6: Themes for RQ 3
What are the challenges to successful adjustment into a host culture?
Theme and subthemes Key Informant Examples
Theme 3: Barriers to Integration â€œLanguage is the hardest, families often report that that donâ€™t know what is going on with the school or their kids.â€
3a. Programs do not account for interrupted education â€œIf a student is 16 years old they are placed in the 11th grade even if they only finished 5th grade back in their home country, Nepal for example.â€
3b. Language/Education Barriers â€œPrevious education, especially for our kids if they have been in school you can see a direct correlation for the number of years that they have been in school.â€ â€œfinding reasonable paying jobs, when you have only limited literacy ang English ability, and then having to pay $1200 to $1500 in rent, this is a huge barrier.â€ â€œParents in the program are very self-conscious and doubt themselves, they are afraid to speak English because they are worried that they will say something wrong and someone will make fun of them.â€
3c. Limited access to academic support Programs â€œStudents are often unable to stay for an extra hour for homework support otherwise they have to walk then three and a half miles home.â€ â€œStudents that have the most difficult time are those that are being held back for reasons outside of their control, such as speaking English.â€
3d. Mental Health Implications â€œmental health is also very taboo, so it's hard to talk about with familiesâ€ â€œWe also partner with other agencies, so when we see that a child is frustrated easily, angry, or having outburst we refer them, so they can help to cultivate coping skills and anger management.â€ â€œSometimes we notice that parents are disengaged for different reasons, it appears to fall in the category of mental illness.â€ â€œSchools are not trained in using a trauma informed approach to working with these students, so the things that they may ask of them can be unrealistic and the teachers are not taking into account the students background.â€
3e. Family Systems (benefactor caregivers) â€œFamily dynamics can be interesting, sometimes there is an older cousin or sibling that takes on the role of caregiver.â€
Table 7: Open codes for RQ 4
What are the sociocultural protective factors that encourage successful integration?
Theme and subthemes Key Informant Examples
Theme 4: Positive Projected Outcomes â€œStudents who bravely engage definitely adjust faster.â€
4a. Previous Education â€œhaving knowledge of English but also literacy in their home language helps out so much.â€ â€œPrevious education, especially for our kids if they have been in school you can see a direct correlation for the number of years that they have been in school.â€
4b. Familiar with Western Society â€œFamilies that are open to the western idea of equality like allowing their daughters to go to college and work outside of the home.â€
4c. Two Parent Households â€œI think having a two-parent household is very helpful. I see our single moms work so hard and try so hard, but it is difficult because they are dealing with their own trauma and stressors.â€
4d. Resilience â€œElementary kids definitely have their struggles, but their road is normally a bit easier, they seem to pick up the language faster and they are able to integrate faster, but for middle and high school students itâ€™s really tough.â€
The analysis used selective coding methods to identify major ideas and concepts derived from the data. This process developed through the continued comparison of participant responses and initially established open-codes. As the researcher began to give names to the data in the form of codes that could be connected to the data in relative categories, the process required repeated analysis of the transcribed data. This process is often referred to as axial coding. The interview protocol was used during the focused coding process, in which were integrated into themes that were then identified and grouped into four main categories: 1) Parent and
Community Engagement; 2) Programs and Services; 3) Barriers to Integration; and 4) Positive, Projected Outcomes. These themes describe: 1) challenges experienced by newcomer children that impact them socially and academically, 2) the programs and services offered at the school and community level that support newcomer children in navigating the school system, establishing relationships with peers and teachers, and understanding their host community and their neighborhood, and finally 3) what are those characteristics seen in the population of interest that are already established and aid in successful integration.
Theme 1- Parent and Community Engagement
In response to research question 1: In what way does the school, community, and parent relationship impact social and academic development in newcomer children? Participants noted several ways that resettlement and community agencies work with clients from the point that they arrive in the United States to understand U.S. systems, schools and culture. Participants reported the importance of continuously checking in with children and families to review concepts for understanding and check for new questions. Specifically, respondents noted that connecting children with at least one â€œpeer buddyâ€ in the school aids in community integration. One participant reported, â€œinstead of an interpreter we began pairing kids with students who either spoke their language or was in the same grade to give them a tour of the school, introduce them to other students, and explain the school schedule.â€ She further remarked â€œthe amount of relief on those students faces when someone familiar walked into the school office was palpable.â€
Additionally, a representative reported that she has found that families respond well to connecting with a â€œfamily liaison,â€ someone who is a part of their community groups or church. Other subthemes within this category suggested that newcomer children often struggle to integrate because they are learning to navigate two cultures. Along with this challenge,
participants reported that parents also struggle with their childrenâ€™s desire to adopt American values, clothing, and music. One participant noted, â€œwhen kids go home their parents tell them they are acting/dressing/sounding too American and when they come to school, they are told by their peers that they sound too Somali and look too Muslim.â€ These comments suggest that these refugee/immigrant children may be faced with barriers related to social identity.
Theme 2 - Programs and Services
Within the interviews, emphasis was placed on the type of programs and services that are offered to newcomer children and their families. Most notably, participants stated that programs that offer support to newcomers during the early stages (i.e. upon arrival) of resettlement are most beneficial. Some of the highlighted programs included: cultural orientation, job readiness, English classes, housing, and food assistance. Representatives from resettlement and community agencies contributed the most evidence of these services in their interviews. One participant noted â€œwe help with school enrollment, open bank accounts, apply for social security cards; all the basic needs.â€ While another participant shared, â€œwe provide supplemental academic support to help children get caught up with their peers.â€
However, while there appears to be a vast number of resources available to these children, respondents indicated that there are some improvements that can be made in terms of programs and services. Specifically, within the school to agency relationship. Participants noted that while some schools are very accommodating to the needs of newcomer children and their families, others seem to be ill equipped to work with this population and fail to understand the unique needs of this group. One participant reported, â€œwe need to change how teachers are trained because our population is changing so dramatically in the United States; teachers and the general education system need to catch up too.â€ The respondent explained that some teachers become overwhelmed with the behavioral challenges displayed by refugee children. She noted
that often unknown to the teacher is that a newcomer may exhibit behaviors that are triggered by frustration, confusion, and trauma. Another respondent pointed out that a child may appear disobedient because they walk around the room without permission and leave the classroom to go the restroom without raising their hand. She explained that this is a scenario frequently reported by teachers. She shared that the reason for this behavior may be as simple as â€œnewcomer children do not understand English or the school rules.â€
Theme 3 - Barriers to Integration
When questioning the respondents about the challenges to successful adjustment into a host culture, it was found that there are many factors that appear to act as a hinderance to acculturation. Some themes that emerged were: interrupted education, language, social factors/bullying, school reception/enrollment process, technology, and the political climate. According to the participants, of the many barriers, language is the most difficult. Several participants reported that limited language proficiency may lead to isolation and shame. One participant noted, â€œlanguage is the hardest, families often report that that donâ€™t know what is going on with the school or their kids.â€ Limited language proficiency also leads to struggles in social communication. According to one of the resettlement agency spokespersons, â€œthese barriers appear most evident at the secondary level while elementary age students appear to adapt more readily.â€ Another participant shared that, â€œthe road is a bit easier for the younger kids because they are able to pick up the language faster and they are able to integrate faster.â€
For students who have had gaps in their education, school in the United States can be challenging as they attempt to learn English and catch up to their peers academically. Other findings indicate that systematic concerns in the enrollment process lead to struggles experienced by newcomer children. For instance, the process by which a newcomer must meet graduation requirements, their placement in high school classes, and the reception from the school
community were all areas noted by participants and barriers to education. Participants reported that the enrollment process varies by school and can be overwhelming and rule bound.
According to one of the participants, if a child is older than 17 and does not have the credits needed to graduate within the traditional U.S. time limits, they may be referred to the General Education Development (GED) process or to another district that can accommodate their needs. In addition, family systems were mentioned by some respondents as barriers to integration. One participant noted, â€œsome families are super encouraging to our students, they really push them forward and support them, then there are other families that are pretty checked out, so it is up to the student to be motivated.â€ Technology is a problem that was noted by respondents in terms of students not having access to a computer for homework and their parents not having access technology to check day-to-day parent school functions such as attendance, grades, and parent-teacher correspondence.
Theme 4 - Positive Projected Outcomes/Celebrations
This theme seeks to answer the research question, what are the sociocultural protective factors that encourage successful integration? Oâ€™Connell, Boat, & Warner (2009), describe socio-cultural factors as the merging of customs, lifestyles, and values of origin with the culture with which you live. Whereas protective factors refer to attributes of individuals that lower the likelihood of problem outcomes (Oâ€™Connell, Boat & Warner, 2009). For newcomer children these factors could be in their maintenance of cultural factors associated with their culture of origin. For instance, maintaining their first language, or exercising religious practices and customs. In terms of protective factors, respondents noted that students who have had some schooling prior to resettlement appear to adapt better. One respondent reported, â€œPrevious education, especially for our kids if they have been in school you can see a direct correlation for
the number of years that they have been in school.â€ Another participant reported, â€œsome schools are very welcoming, and they want to more about our kids and their families.â€
Chapter III detailed the methodology utilized in this case study. The purpose of this chapter was to provide detailed information regarding the data collection, data analysis, sample selection, and theoretical underpinnings. In addition, the following narratives detail the responses for each participant. All participants are from metropolitan Denver; however, their job, roles and organizations vary. For the purpose of this study, specific demographic and identifying information has been removed from the narrative and generalized as much as possible. For instance, the participant names and organizations are not included, instead, participants are identified in an alphabetized order (A-E) in order to provide anonymity. The following six participant narratives contain stories about their experience working with immigrant/refugee students and their families.
The following narratives have been divided into sections: a) programs and services, b) population of interest, c) school reception, d) cultural hinderances; e) notable concerns.
Due to the nature of the qualitive inquiry methods, the researcher had the opportunity to engage with participants through one-on-one interviews. Each respondent shared a unique experience working with the immigrant/refugee population. Their shared experiences were rich, and they frequently offered additional information not elicited by the researcher. The following information includes the researcherâ€™s general interpretations of the participants narratives. Interestingly, responses from all participants were generally consistent, with some outlier perspectives regarding the existing relationship between agencies and schools. Some participants did not have enough information to respond to all questions. The responses below highlight their experiences and are representative of their voice.
Participant A is a School Programs Coordinator who works for a resettlement agency.
She has worked with resettlement agencies for 10+ years. She has worked with immigrants from Karin, Burma, Thailand Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Ruanda Afghanistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Bhutan and Nepali. She noted that her role has changed over time from working with newcomers to navigating the â€œcomplicatedâ€ systems as students enroll in the various districts to currently primarily providing supplemental academic support to students. She reported that at the elementary school level this typically involves after school tutoring and at middle school and high school levels more push-in academic support. Participant A primarily works with students within their school environment. Her role involves going into mainstream classrooms to teach core subjects like math and science. She works with a small group of students who often have had limited or interrupted schooling, thus rendering them behind in content. She stated that â€œMy primary goal is to work with them to kind of help them catch-up with their peers.â€ She offers similar support at the high school level, although with the older children she reports seeing bigger gaps in education. Participant A provided an example of what this often looks like for high school students: â€œIf a student is 16 years old, they are placed in the 11th grade even if they only finished 5th grade back in their home country, Nepal for example.â€
In addition to Participant Aâ€™s primary job duties, her organization provides an in-home tutoring program to support high school students who often times cannot stay after school for the tutoring that is offered at the school due to childcare responsibilities, after school job obligations, or transportation challenges. Participant A stated that, â€œStudents are often unable to stay for an extra hour for homework support otherwise they have to walk then three and a half miles home.â€ Participant Aâ€™s organization also provides a â€œCultural Adjustmentâ€ program that offers help to
students who are trying to navigate the practical and social aspects of school. Within this program enrichment classes are offered. At the middle school level, Participant A explained that they often go over basic school skills like how to: open your locker, navigate the school lunch line, what is bullying, and how-to self-advocate. She noted that â€œbullying is rampant at all of these schools and children need to be taught how to combat it.â€ Additional topics of discussion that come up are: changes schedules, and how to understand credits.
In terms of community organization support, Participant A reported that she often partners with community based mental health organizations to provide individual therapy, or smaller and more focused groups where she can address coping skills when children exhibit behaviors such as anger or aggression. Participant A reported that, â€œWe see kids who withdrawal and kind of shut down so helping to establish coping skills so that they can become successful in navigating the schools is my goal.â€
Another aspect of Participant Aâ€™s job is offering programs that encourage parent engagement. She reported that in this role she is responsible for supporting parents as they become involved in their child's school life. She noted that â€œOur parents are so excited and want to be involved and want to be supportive, but often times due to the language barrier, they are scared to go to their kidsâ€™ schools, they don't know that they can go and talk to the teachers, or that they have access to an interpreter.â€ Participant A also explained that parents often report that it can be very â€œscaryâ€ walking through the front doors and attempting to navigate or initiate a conversation with building personnel.
Participant A described advocacy as one of the most important roles in her position. She stated that advocacy involves combating some of the educational barriers they face, helping students identify what they really want in terms of education. She noted that sometimes all they really want is the social experience of high school. In a final note, Participant A noted, â€œI just
want to say I know sometimes we talk about all of the hardships and challenges, but our kids are so resilient, and so hardworking, so it's not all sad stories just unique obstacles that our kids are facing.â€
Barriers to Integration, Adaptation, Success
Participant A reported that services vary by agency. She noted, â€œUnfortunately, I am the only one at my agency that does this with the help of an intern. â€œShe further explained that her agencyâ€™s goal is to focus in the â€œAction Zoneâ€ or â€œInnovation Zoneâ€ area schools. These are schools that are in â€œturn-aroundâ€ due to poor test scores, or high dropout rates. Participant A explained that for these schools who have a large immigrant/refugee population test scores may not be as strong because â€œour kids don't test well because they are still learning the language and the content isn't fully relevant.â€ She further explained that even when they have obtained some fluency in the English language, they are often required to use a computer to take a test, which can bring about new challenges. She reported that the â€œturn aroundâ€ status can be somewhat helpful in that she has reportedly seen an increase in the flexibility schools allow in terms of teaching. She further explained that this is the reason she is allowed to provide support in an enrichment class offered during the school day. This class is normally co-taught with an English Language Development teacher.
Participant A reported several risk factors that impact refugee students and their families. These factors include limited: educational experiences by both children and their parents, access to technology which makes it difficult to complete homework and find jobs; high drop-out rates as student are often challenged with the reality of needing to help provide income for their family; and isolation. Participant A noted that families may feel isolated from society when first arriving in Colorado, she noted, â€œI think our case managers do try to put them closer to their communities, especially because our families are coming from such communal societies and so
thatâ€™s why you find that oftentimes our families will say I do not want to live in a separate house.â€ Rather families often want to live with a relative even if it means living with 2-3 adults and 4+children in a 2-bedroom home. Participant A shared that when this occurs it is her job to educate the families about housing violations such as fire codes.
When asked about ways to measure integration, Participant A stated that it can be â€œtough,â€ especially when working with â€œthird cultureâ€ kids who are navigating two cultures. She noted that these children are ridiculed at school for â€œsounding too Somali,â€ or you â€œlook to different.â€ Similarly, when they go home they are told they are â€œacting and dressing too American.â€
Other challenges include finding employment or reasonable paying jobs with limited language, and literacy. Furthermore, Participant A reported that the high cost of housing can create significant challenges for families. She explained that families often report struggles with finding homes that are near the school that they can afford. In terms of challenges reported by student, Participant A explained that many students struggle to navigate the educational system alone including accessing transcripts, changes classes at the high school level. For the student who do not establish relationships with their peers they may seek other forms of connection such as gangs.
Participant A also discussed challenges reported by newcomer children regarding navigating multiple cultures. She reported that this often occurs when children â€œdo not feel like they belong in any one space; not feeling Somali enough or not feeling American enough so instead feeling stuck.â€ She also noted that children often report issues with bullying and are at risk of gang involvement, specifically with the Nepalis, and our Burmese boys. Participant A has found that having a strong desire to belong may be a primary factor leading to gang involvement, as newcomer children are looking for a place to fit in.
Process, Procedures, & Policies
With regard to family supports offered by resettlement agencies, Participant A noted that families are eligible for services for up to five years. Within the first five years, families can access career counselors and job developers who work with employers to secure job placement. However, she noted that while job retention is a goal there are other factors which impede successful placement such as limited understanding of the transportation system and limited language proficiency. In order to prepare the parents, Participant Aâ€™s organization offers job readiness workshops. In the workshopâ€™s parents are taught interviewing skills, resume building, personal hygiene, and job basics.
When asked to describe her experience working with school systems, Participant A noted that each school has varying requirements. She reported that some districts are very welcoming and offer newcomer schools which include: transportation, language support, and mental health services. In terms of terms of teacher responses, she noted that some teachers are very excited, while others appear overwhelmed and unprepared. Participant A also noted, â€œsome teachers want our kids in our classrooms because they know how much they offer the learning environment, while other teachers become frustrated because a kid is not listening and is walking around.â€ She stated, â€œwhat these teachers are missing is proper training to help them understand that many refugee children have never been in school and do not know about classroom rules such as raising their hand to use the restroom.â€ Participant A also voiced concerns around high burnout rates teachers experience due to vicarious trauma. Similarly, she reported that many refugee students voice concerns around safety and immigration status. In the high school settings, she noted a disconnect between academic demands and the lack of unique supports available for refugee students. Regarding helpful accommodations, Participant A noted that teachers can offer snacks in the classroom or a quiet place to sleep.
Participant A reported that schools who do not have newcomer programs may not be fully prepared to work with newcomer students. She explained that these schools occasionally decline admission for newcomer students, instead offer alternative options such as GED or a New America school. She noted that hearing â€œnoâ€ upon initial meeting can be very disappointing and psychologically impairing for families. Most notably, Participant A reported that children who enter the country at the age of 16 or older are occasionally rejected by school districts due to reasons related to U.S. standard graduation requirements that newcomers often cannot meet because they cannot meet the credit hour requirement, they are unable to graduate within the required U.S. standard graduation timelines, or they cannot provide a transcript showing successful completion of prerequisite classes. For example, she has found that U.S. History and Physics are not taught in other countries.
Celebrations â€” Reported successes or suggestions for integration processes
Participant A explained that she is most proud of the enrichment classes offered by her organization. Within these classes, culture is celebrated. She stated that this includes providing opportunities for students to play games, share stories, and exchange experiences in a safe environment. Participant A reported, â€œwhatâ€™s great about our classes is that our kids are coming from all over the world, so you have 20 different languages or countries of origin in the same classroom and kids are exchanging, in a safe environment.â€
According to Participant A, students in her groups are asked to qualitatively rate their level of comfort in the school setting and comfort navigating the school system, using a pre and post survey. When asked what she would change in the resettlement process, she reported, â€œwe focus so much on our clients and how can we help them, but really if the receiving network was so much more receiving on a wider scale how great would that be if your neighbor was helping you take the bus rather than some agency.â€
Participant A noted, characteristics she has seen to be beneficial to successful integration include: families who have some English seem to adapt more easily; literacy in their home language; previous education (especially for kids); if they have been in school you can see a direct correlation to the number of years that they have been in school, even if it was not the highest quality of education.â€ She explained, even if they have had some education they tend to â€œcatch up with their peers or at least follow along with the material.â€ Participant A also notes that having a two-parent household and a flexible perspective of gender roles can be beneficial.
When newcomer families are open to this western equality, â€œit is a little bit easier for them to kind of allow their kids, mainly their daughters to go off to college, or to take school seriously, because sometimes families don't think that their girls need to go to school. She reported that she has heard parents report that their girls should get married young and have babies.â€
Mental Health Implications
Participant A described trauma as one of the main struggles experienced by newcomer families. She also reported concerns relating to social emotional and mental wellness as a major challenge for families. Participant A stated, â€œmental health is also very taboo, so it's hard to talk about with families.â€ She described a scenario in which a newcomer child arrives in the United States and feels fine, but begins to experience sudden, intense depression, or anger several months later. She explains that she has seen this scenario play out with many children. She also notes that some adults do not recognize this as a response to trauma. Participant A shared a story about a older student who she works that appears to be experiencing psychotic episodes at home and school that interfere with their everyday functioning. Participant A stated, â€œWhen you know that it is not language based because we have someone there who speaks the same language, her sister is saying when this happened back in my home country, I would just take her to the water and dip her in the water and the devil would leave her.â€ Participant A notes that although this is
an extreme case there are many other cases like this one. Suggesting that a better understanding of mental health concerns may be warranted.
Participant B is a Resettlement Agency Program Specialist. She has been with her agency for one year, but she has worked with the immigrant, refugee population for five years. She reports that one of her main job duties is to help all newcomer students enroll in school from the initial process until its completion. According to Participant B, much of her duties involve teaching students and parents how to go through the enrollment process including: teacher introductions, general application process, figuring out the first day of school and bus schedules. Participant B also provides support to students when there are reports of bullying behavioral issues. Due to Participant Bâ€™s unique role, she is listed as an emergency contact for students on her caseload. For this reason, she can respond to schools directly when issues arise with students, especially in the event that the caregiver is unavailable. In her role she can act as an advocate on behalf of the child.
Additionally, Participant B is responsible for general youth programming which operates under a grant that it is written for refugee students ages 5 to 21. General youth programming involves parent engagement strategies, academic achievement and psycho social activities and development support. She explained that although her duties in this capacity are separate from the schools they still fall within the goal of greater integration into the United States. Participant B frequently works with families from Somalia, Congo, Iraq, Syria, Burma, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. She is introduced to families by their case manager on their second day in the country. This is a process that occurs as part of general orientation whenever a family has a school-age child(ren). Upon meeting the family, Participant B provides a general introduction of her role
and the services that she offers. She reported that she describes herself to the families as â€œthe face that they are going to be familiar with for school issues.â€
Participant B strives to ensure that her first meeting with families is basic and brief, because she understands that the process may be very overwhelming. Within the meeting families are given a brief overview of U.S. schools structure. For instance, having several children that are in one household going to multiple schools (e.g. the separation of elementary, middle and high school settings). She noted that she has found this information is helpful when given to families early. During her second meeting with families, Participant B brings backpacks and school supplies that are age-appropriate for all children in the household. She also uses this meeting to walk the family through the first steps of the enrollment application, which can be very different depending on the district. Participant B noted that, for some districts the process involves completing a â€œgiant paper packet of information for each child.â€ She noted that when a family has multiple children it may take several hours to complete paperwork. For other districts the application requires identification cards, immunization records, and proof of address for all children.
Barriers to Integration, Adaptation, Success
In terms of barriers, Participant B noted that when working with families who do not speak English, they seem to be slower to pick up on systems. She noted that the initial meeting is normally longer and involves an interpreter. When meeting with the families Participant B also helps them to complete a free and reduced lunch application and set up their student portal account. Participant B voiced concerns with this process, she expressed hope that one day families will be given laptops as part of their welcome package. She explained that she would like to â€œteach them how to check grades and attendance from home.â€ She noted that it can be
unreasonable to expect that caregivers will remember what was shown to them after only one observation.
Communication is another notable factor. According to Participant B, it can be difficult to state how different it is when children and families cannot communicate. She describes it as a puzzle in which learning English is very important to encourage students that they can learn with support. Participant B noted this as one of the most important pieces of integration. Similarly, newcomers at the secondary level voice concerns around communication with their parents. Participant B shared that newcomers report a disproportionate delineation of responsibilities, and that their parents just do not understand their â€œnew life,â€ so they do not share information about their lives with them. Whereas, she noted that elementary level parents are more involved. Process, Procedures, & Policies
For her schools located in the more centralized area of the city, Participant B takes her families to their local Welcome Center. She explained that the process is normally straight forward because the center is directly connected to the school emissions office.
Another important area that is focused on by Participant Bâ€™s agency is parent engagement. Participant B encourages parents to check student grades and encourage their high schoolers to school and after school program attendance. Following the initial meeting and training, Participant B conducts a 90-day follow-up meeting. During this meeting she does a â€œtest of knowledge,â€ in which she quizzes families on how well they know the name of their childâ€™s school(s), directions to the school, attendance line, etc. Based on the results, she determines whether they require additional training. As a standard procedure, Participant B prefers to walk her students in on the first day of school. She notes that this can be challenging when there are multiple children in one household. When this is the case, she attends the school of the high
school student or the child that requires the most support. She feels strongly about providing this support as she noted that this time can be â€œa really difficult transition.â€
Participant B reports that trauma is another major factor affecting successful integration. She stated that students are often struggling with so many things that are outside of their control like not speaking English, not understanding school. She reports that he students who choose to â€œbravely engageâ€ despite the challenges tend to adjust faster. While other students seem to have a â€œmental blockâ€ that prevents them from moving forward. Participant B noted, although â€œall of our students have experienced trauma there is just something mysterious about some human beings seem to have been born with some more resilience than others.â€ She explains that schools would benefit from using a trauma informed approach when working with these students.
Furthermore, Participant B reported that she has noticed a need for change in the way in which teachers are trained at a macro level. She stated, â€œour population is changing so dramatically in the United States and you know teachers need to catch up with that too.â€ She also explained that she has seen increased teacher turnover rates associated with struggles when dealing with behavioral challenges while working with refugee students. According to Participant B, much of the behavioral concerns can be attributed to trauma. Participant B stated, "their needs are just as unique as our special education students.â€ Participant be shared that she wishes there were special programs specifically designed for students having a previously interrupted formal education, or students who are just learning English. Participant B also explained that the supports offered by ELL departments are often minimal when compared to the needs of the students.
Participant B shares a memory of a time she worked with a Syrian student. She remembers that this student began to internalize â€œshame.â€ She recalls that the student would frequently report that every day was a bad day. His struggles stemmed from previous trauma,
and an unbalanced level of academic support. In terms of school to agency relationships, Participant B reported that, the relationship with students and training vary by district. For instance, â€œsome people are more sensitive and understanding of the issues because they have done their own work and theyâ€™ve really been engaging with this their own growth, so they are willing to meet our students where they need to be met.â€
Celebrations â€” Reported successes or suggestions for integration processes
According to Participant B, she has noticed that elementary age children seem to experience an easier transition because they tend to pick up the language faster and integrate faster. However, she has noticed that middle and high school students struggle more with this process. For this reason, she makes more frequent school visits at the high school level. She reported that newcomer children and schools have seen this as helpful. Participant B reported that her agency provides a robust after school program, offered only to high schoolers. Within this program, students are given tutoring services and dinner. She noted that this is one of the best programs they offer because it keeps children connected with others.
Participant B facilitates an after-school group with 12 students. Within this group she offers focused field trips, focused discussions, service-learning projects (e.g. services learning projects focused on environmental protection or how to recycle). She stated that she believes it is very important to measure levels of acculturation and growth. Currently, Participant B administers a pre and posttest to students.
Participant B notes that one of the most important proponents of successful integration is the connection with their school community in the school. She shared that a strategy she often uses with newcomer students is to pull a list of all the student in the building who speak the same language and introduce them to the newcomer students. After printing the list, Participant B typically shows the list to the newcomer student and asks them to select three students who they
may know. These students then take-on the role of student liaison; their role including giving newcomer students a tour of the building and introducing them to other students. Participant B notes, â€œthe amount of relief on those students faces when someone familiar walked into the school office was palpable.â€ â€œI mean it was amazing, and it really change the dynamic, because instead of using an interpreter they donâ€™t know, it is their fellow student who is explaining what their school schedule is and taking them around the school.â€ Participant B noted some additional protective factors including: eagerness to learn, resilience of the student, family life, culture, encourage family system. She stated, â€œThis is one of those things where I hope that in about 50 years from now will have taken a giant leap forward.â€ She stated that she hopes that there are better systems in place to meet the needs of all of the students enrolling in Colorado districts.
Participant B noted that her greatest success stories have been in the relationships that are formed. She noted that there are some schools that form great relationships with their students and families; in these schools the teachers are very accommodating and helpful. She reported, â€œsome of the schools that are used to having our clients offer special programming and ask questions about how they can best serve kids.â€ She explained that support varies, but it could be as simple as better labeling of foods at lunch time to ensure that children who do not consume pork for religious reasons are aware of the contents in lunch foods. These schools also let Participant B meet with students during the day. When a relationship is not established with school personnel Participant B noted that the interactions with personnel can be very difficult.
She reported that this can be challenging because â€œa big part of her job is building trust and relationships with schools.â€ She shared that having an established relationship typically increases the level of advocacy she can provide to families. She attributes this success to being able to collaborate with the school, navigate the system with parents, and help to build a common understanding in a way that the family cannot do on their own.
Mental Health Implications
According to Participant B, there is â€œwork to be done concerning the identification and treatment of student who experience mental health challenges as they arise.â€ She explained that mental health implications are often undetected due to the limited English focus. She reported that behaviors may be associated with cultural factors and these major concerns are often â€œlost in the process.â€ Participant B noted a few situations involving a very disengaged parent. She reported that she believes this disconnect may have been related to several factors including mental illness. In these cases, she has seen other family member such as cousinsâ€™ step in to care for the children.
Participant C is a Bilingual Speech Pathologist who has worked with newcomer students for 5 years. With regard to working with refugee students, Participant C has worked with students from Honduras, Mexico, and Ethiopia. She reported that her district offers newcomer schools at the Elementary, Middle, and Highschool levels. However, entrance into these schools is based on availability, so the goal is to support students in their home schools with English Language Development specialists until they can be placed in a more appropriate setting. These specialists are trained in the ELD Teacher Training, a two-year program that focuses on identifying different stages of language acquisition and how to support students at every stage.
In Participant Câ€™s experience, newcomer students are assigned to a school that can meet their specific needs. She reported that these schools have classrooms where the students participate in language rich programming in order to increase the studentâ€™s acquisition of English. She further explained that these schools are fully equipped to match the needs of newcomer student with staff members who are highly trained in language acquisition.
According to Participant C, a student that is experiencing success in his/her steps of acculturation will willingly participate in more social activities in the school and the community. She noted that adapting to another culture is difficult and when a student is able to transcend different barriers it is an indication that he/she is accepting and being accepted into a new culture. In the schools Participant C works parents/guardians are invited to all meetings so that they feel ownership in their childâ€™s education programming.
Barriers to Integration, Adaptation, Success
Participant C discussed several barriers to successful integration including, not inviting parents/guardians to be part of the school programming, failing to provide an interpreter when necessary, or not placing a student in a newcomer school. According to Participant C, she has worked with students who have reported feelings of inclusion after being placed in a newcomer classroom. She noted that immigrant/refugee students have explained that this is due to the number of students who come from different countries. She believes another contributing factor is that when children go to newcomer schools, they are all learning about English and American culture together. Participant C described language as one of the main barriers for students and families when trying to access the curriculum. In addition, she noted that cultural differences also have an impact. For instance, she noted that some teachers who are not aware of acculturation may think the newcomers â€œsimply do not want to participate in class whereas, the situation may be completely influenced by something in the studentâ€™s schema.â€
Although the district offers transportation to newcomer schools, Participant C noted that she often wonders about the missed advantages to allowing newcomer students to attend their neighborhood schools. Participant C also expressed frustration when discussing teacher preparedness. She noted that teachers often do not understand the implications when a child does not speak the dominate language. She shared that many teachers refer these students for special
education evaluation. She noted that she sees this occur with general education teachers as well as teachers who have gone through the ELA-S program and ELD courses. She noted that in some districts like the one she lives in students are bused much further to schools in other districts if the neighborhood school cannot meet a studentâ€™s specific language instruction needs, despite the fact that a neighborhood school may only be a few blocks away. At the school level, adjustment is monitored as children are being evaluated for special education. Participant C believes that there is room for more education in this area. She stated, â€œif a child has only been in the country for a short period of time, it does not mean that they qualify for special education.â€ Participant C noted that she wishes she could do more, she stated: â€œI am able to do what I need to do, but as a human being I wish that I could do more like finding interpreters, or after school clubs that the kids could join. I wish I could follow a student their entire educational career but itâ€™s just not the nature of my job.â€
Process, Procedures, & Policies
In terms of the enrollment process, Participant C reported that the first step during enrollment is determining the studentâ€™s eligibility for a newcomer school. This process of identification includes verifying the studentâ€™s level of English language proficiency and determining whether they live within the designation of a newcomer school. In the event that the student does not live near a newcomer school the team meets to evaluate all other areas of performance. Participant C noted that students are given a test called the ACCESS. This test is required before a student is considered for enrollment in a newcomer school.
Participant C also highlighted the need to include families in this enrollment process. She reported that she commonly informs parents of their role in ensuring that their son/daughterâ€™s needs are met. Participant C explained that newcomer schools are generally the best placement for these students because â€œthis is the setting where they will receive the most supports.â€ She
explained that in these schools they have specific classes where the children are learning a lot of their English in their ELD classes. Students are also integrated into other classes. For example, if a child does not understand the content being taught, they have the option to bring the work back to their ELD teacher for English instruction and support.
According to Participant C, although the most ELD teachers are not fluent in other languages, they are trained to use English language best practices that support in the development of English. Some of their techniques involve the use of visuals and visual cues to support the learning. She reported that â€œthe best part is that the kids feel like they are all in the same boat, so they get along, they know they are not alone the entire class is there for the exact same reason.â€ One child stated, â€œthis is great because I don't feel like I am the only one that is trying to learn English and I am not the only one coming from a different country.â€ Participant C reflects, â€œIt was really great to hear him say that.â€ Participant C has found that teachers at newcomer schools generally receive more training. In addition, they generally consult with different teams to gather more resources when working with newcomer students.
Celebrations â€” Reported successes or suggestions for integration processes
Participant C reported family engagement as a supportive element in integration. She reported that families tend to gravitate to areas where there are other families from the same tribe or community. Often times this is not possible, so Participant C recommends that families connect with a family liaison. Participant C noted that she facilitates the initial meeting to ensure that the meeting happens. She noted that the benefit of using a family liaison is to connect with churches and community groups. In her experience, some of these groups and liaisons have weekly dinners where they invite all families from that community so that they can eat together and share stories. She has also had experience with the liaison visiting and supporting the family throughout the move and visiting the student(s) in school.
Mental Health Implications
Regarding mental health implications, Participant C shared a story about a student who arrived in the United States with a traumatic background. According to Participant C, after a few days at school the student began acting out and exhibiting major behavior outbursts. After consulting with the psychologist and social worker a decision was made to identify the reason for the behavior which led to a better understanding of the childâ€™s experience with trauma. Additionally, it became clear that the child had not had much experience with school.
Participant C notes that the communication between disciplines turned out to be one of the best ways to meet the childâ€™s needs. Following multiple meetings to address the studentsâ€™ needs the student it was determined that the student would benefit from therapy, Spanish instruction and Spanish intervention. She reported, â€œit took a lot of communication between the principal, the SLP, the school psychologist.â€ She reported that the student was not adapting well to the new culture.
Participant D has been working with her current resettlement agency for two years, but she has been working with the refugee population in non-profit organizations for more than five years. She made the switch to work solely with immigrant, refugees after hearing reports about the population on the news. She noted that her experience has been humbling. She stated, â€œI feel like people who live outside of the United States are so much more hospitable; when I go into these clientâ€™s homes to deliver or pick-up or something, they don't know me, and they don't speak the language, but they offer me food and tea and they want me to sit down.â€ â€œIt makes me realize how warm and welcoming, and how quickly our clients want to turn around and help someone else.â€ Participant Dâ€™s office serves over 350 people from as many as 13 countries. She
reported that she has worked with clients from Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo, Burmese, Bhutan, AirTran arrivals. In her role, she oversees the family mentorship program. Barriers to Integration, Adaptation, Success
According to Participant D within her role working with families and schools she has noticed barriers relating to understanding cultural nuances. She provided an example of a Thanksgiving event in which clients were concerned about whether the Turkey was halal3. Participant D admits that she made sure to plan for pork-free meat products but was unaware of other practices that should be preserved. She reported, â€œI just thought, no pork products so weâ€™re doing good.â€ Since then, Participant D has learned that there are so many things that you do not naturally think about. Some of these things are addressed by the Family Stabilization program offered by her organization. Through this program clients are assigned to a coordinator who is an on-site social worker. As the coordinator is tasked to go into schools and talk ways in which schools can better serve refugee youth. She also addresses the mental health impact that one might experience when someone is forced to flee their home country. She speaks about the impact of displacement, through resettlement and what that looks like for kids.
The agency also offers a training session for teachers which covers a broad refugee 101
introduction course. During this training session they invite community organization such as
mental health organizations that work with schools to talk about their work serving refugee
youth. Participant D noted that one of the mental health community partners talked about triggers
and things that schools can do to support their kids. Specifically, when working with adolescents
who have experienced trauma or may be triggered like during a fire drill planning ahead is best
so that the student is aware that it is going to happen. The agency encourages including
classroom helpers and ambassadors during this process. Participant D noted, â€œjust talking about
3 Halal refers to any action or behavior that is permissible in Islam, including what types of meat and methods of preparation are acceptable
those kinds of things that we don't naturally think about, and I feel like districts are always receptive about how they can better serve their kids.â€ Finally, Participant D noted that the overall goal of her team is to help clients get the community support they need. She noted that for some families this may mean connecting them with ethnic or religious community, others may just want to connect with their neighborhood community. Participant D stated: â€œSo it really just varies and from what I have seen and observed it is really more of a personal choice and so we kind of just facilitate whatever connections they feel may be helpful.â€
Process, Procedures, & Policies
Once a family has gone through the required security, biometric screenings, interviews, and reviews of documentation and approved to come to the United States, they are reassigned to one of nine national resettlement agencies. Participant D is then notified that a family will be coming into one of the Denver/Metro offices. Her role involves interpreting the familyâ€™s biometric information including the number of children, their ages, and getting a general idea of how her agency will serve them. Upon arrival the family is picked up by their case worker. From there, the case worker conducts a full day of intake with clients at their office. During the intake Participant D provides information regarding services that are available to them.
Participant D explained that her team helps to get everyone enrolled in school, open bank accounts, social security cards, find jobs, enroll in cultural orientation programs, and all those very basic needs. The cultural orientation program is offered through her agency, she stated that it is â€œbasically like a 40 fact course where they talk about everything from U.S. customs and laws, and recently they had talked about Halloween, so that clients were not surprised to see people dressed up in costume, going door to door asking for candy, just kind of preparing people for all those things you would have taken the time to learn about if you plan to pick up you live and move across the globe.â€
Participant D explained that her agency often prepares their clients for U.S. cultural holiday traditions that may trigger trauma, such as the Fourth of July. They also offer information to support families with their new roles and responsibilities such as: making maintenance requests on an apartment, rules and regulations about how old can children be to be left alone, job readiness for clients where we talk about going to work in the U.S. workforce, helping clients decide how the experience they are bringing with them will align with career opportunities here in the U.S., practicing for interviews, and resume development.
Participant D reported that clients receive the most support from her organization during their first 90 days. From there, clients with lower barriers start to get established and the support tapers off, while other clients might need more on-going services. Ultimately when families arrive, they are given legal status, so the agencies cannot obligate anyone to participate in additional programing. Participant D noted that some familyâ€™s resettle in other states upon arrival in order to be closer to extended family members. As an organization, the agency conducts regular home visits at 24 hours, 30 day, and 90 days. The agency continues to serve any clients who come into the office for support. When children are first enrolled in schools the agency is very involved in this process within the first year. Year two involves helping parents navigate reenrollment for the first time. Participant Dâ€™s agency has a school enrollment volunteer, who offers case management to families during the enrollment process. Her services include helping parents understand the paperwork, navigating parent/teacher conferences, and helping parents understand how to navigate the school system and how to best support their children. Celebrations â€” Reported successes or suggestions for integration processes
Participant D works very closely with her case management team and volunteers who work with clients and schools. She noted that to-date they have had good experiences working with schools. She expressed that there are two school districts that have offered the best support
and worked well with meeting the clientâ€™s needs. She also noted that one of the districts has a large immigrant, refugee population, so they have incorporated â€œgreat newcomer programs.â€ She reported that the schools who they work the best with offer â€œwelcoming programsâ€ and a seamless and easy enrollment process. On the other hand, she noted that there are some districts that don't understand their responsibilities so there is a little bit more education needed. For some of the schools who are new to the refugee community Participant Dâ€™s agency works very closely with to help them understand newcomer children, offer their services as a resource, and facilitate conversations about cultural support. Some of the conversations include: better labeling of foods at lunch time and accommodation planning. She noted that they have seen a positive response from community partners and schools. Based on recent feedback, she has seen more schools adopting new programming for immigrant, refugee students.
According to Participant D, her clients appear to have successfully adjusted when they begin meeting their neighbors, getting a chance to get out in their community, exploring, feeling like they belong, and like they are a part of their community. The agency offers a mentorship program in which volunteers work with each family or individual for six months, 2-4 hours every week. During this time, they serve a first friend or as a cultural ambassador. In this role, they offer a safe place to ask questions, or practice English. Participant D explains that some of the family mentors help clients with tasks that are as basic as finding ethnic grocery stores or understanding how to shop the sales at a grocery store. Conversely, families that appear to be integrating at a faster pace, may benefit from more targeted activities such as: trips to the mountains, museum, or simply walking around their neighborhood. Participant D reported â€œI feel like the mentorship program offers clients a connection to the broader community.â€ Participant D referenced the State of Coloradoâ€™s refugee service program which conducted a five-year study, called the RISE report in which they found that refugees who interact with their host community
have better, long-term integration. Suggesting that the more people can get out into the community and create that social bridging, there is a better projected outcome of long-term success with those interactions. Refugees can receive services for up to five years after they arrive. Participant D reported this as a benefit, because newcomers receive more long-term integration services and job upgrades that help them beyond the initial adjustment timeframe. Mental Health Implications
Family stabilization services are offered to families who might be encountering greater barriers or higher levels of mental health issues. These families are referred to community services and to the agencyâ€™s psycho-social support program. This program provides low-level mental health intervention through group curriculum. The goal of the group is to teach a skill and create community as people sit in a room together and can talk about the difficulties adjusting to life in the U.S. The agency also offers community gardening, restorative yoga, and breathing techniques, generally providing programs that combine that skill with the mental health support that people need. Participant D stated that her agency has recognized the number of their clients who come with trauma, so the goal is to try and meet them where they are and help them to progress and thrive in the United States. She reported that they also offer youth services where they help to connect refugeeâ€™s youth with summer camp opportunities, after school opportunities, or other community programs engagement throughout the resettlement process.
Participant E is a Family Literacy Lead teacher. She has worked with her agency in this role for 5.5 years. Participant E has worked with participants from: Mexico, Myanmar, Iraq, Guatemala, Somalia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Bhutan, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Togo, China, South Korea, Indonesia, Palestine, Lebanon. Participant E
works for an organization that provides English as a Second Language (ESL), GED preparation, and Special programs for College and Workplace transition.
In Participant E â€™s role, she is housed in an Elementary school located in a demographically diverse school in one of the Colorado districts, providing ESL, family literacy and family engagement programs to immigrant, refugee families. The Family Literacy program is offered to parents/adult family members who have kids in the school. Parents are required to come at least 4 times a week (2.5 hours/day)â€”3 days are dedicated to learning English, 1 day is â€œParent Timeâ€, a time to learn about the school, how to help their children achieve academically. The remaining time can be used to access community resources, other services that are designed to support immigrant parents. Parents are also required to spend 1/hour week in their childâ€™s classroom working with him/her. The literacy program is being piloted with the hope that the services will be available at a few schools within each Colorado district.
Barriers to Integration, Adaptation, Success
In terms of parents, Participant E has seen adjust more quickly the more they get involvedâ€”through employment, making friends, getting involved in community groups, etc. Within the family literacy program, she believes that parents are becoming more confident working with their kids and with the school. She noted that teachers report that â€œkids are working harder because their parents are in the building, and parents are better able to help their kids with homework.â€ Participant E reported that parent involvement has significantly increased in the area of academic participation. â€œEvery Tuesday for the last year homework has been opened up after school to provide with those supports.â€ The Family Literacy Program weighs a strong emphasis on parent engagement at school and helping parents get more involved in the school community. Some of the features of the school engagement include:
â€¢ weekly hour of PACT Time (â€œParent and Child Together Timeâ€) parents spend in
their childâ€™s class
â€¢ 20 hours of parent volunteering over the course of the school year, which is meant to
further push them to become in involved in the school community
â€¢ Parents are strongly encouraged to attend school events and parent meetings (like
PTCO and PASS) and give them volunteer time for doing so
â€¢ Administrators and teachers are invited to come speak with the parents about the
school and ways parents can support their children (i.e. how to help kids with math
and reading homework)
â€¢ Participant E maintains a calendar that includes school events as well as free/low-cost
community events (like free days at the museums).
Participant E reported language as being one of the most challenging factors in integration. She stated, â€œEnglish is so hardâ€ as a comment that is frequently reported by parents and children. She has noticed that many families in the program have increased self-consciousness and selfdoubt contributing to their fear of speaking the language. Parents report that they are afraid that people will make fun of them. For this reason, her goal is to create a safe environment for families to learn and make mistakes without judgement.
Process, Procedures, & Policies
Participant E reported that families who have begun isolating themselves within their own cultural group, may result in limited acculturative experiences. She explains that families often resort to this response as a result of their fear/self-consciousness about speaking English and getting involved in an unfamiliar system (school system, etc). In her experience, additional factors which limit access to the general education curriculum are primarily related to language barriers when families are unable to communicate with people at school.
Participant E has not noticed significant differences between participants who have varying levels of education. With regard to people with very low levels of education (and some with NO education), the process of learning English is much slower. Participant E reported parentsâ€™ educational level as another existing factor that impacts cultural integration. She reported, â€œalthough it may be self-evident, parents with a higher educational level in their own countries generally seem to learn English faster, are better able to navigate the new systems, can better help their children with homework, are qualified for more jobs, and probably just have more confidence in getting out there into the community.â€
Celebrations â€” Reported successes or suggestions for integration processes
The Family Literacy program is only offered to parents and grandparents of children who attend the school, so a significant amount of Participant E â€™s job is to recruit participants. In order to recruit participants, Participant E uses handouts and flyers, she attends kindergarten orientation and other school functions. During the first few months of the year, flyers are sent out to all families who are referred by teachers as possible applicants. Participant E noted that her job requires good communication and relationships with teachers who make the referrals. She also explained that she frequently works with ELD teachers to identify families. With regard to program success, she noted: â€œWe measure participantsâ€™ growth in English acquisition through the CASAS life skills reading test (and TABE language for our highest students); we (and CDE) also consider gaining employment and moving on to other educational/training opportunities to be positive outcomes.â€
She also reported having a positive experience in terms of teacher preparedness. She reported that teachers have a welcoming, open-minded disposition, especially ELS teachers who she co-teaches with. Participant E noted that, â€œit can be interesting that teachers donâ€™t know
much about the countries and canâ€™t recognize the languages.â€ For instance, some teachers do not recognize that Bhutan and Myanmar are very different countries, and also far from each other. Mental Health Implications
Participant E did not discuss any information to support the theme Mental Health Implications.
Participant F is an English Language Specialist. She works for a large school district located in the Denver/Metro area. Her role involves working with students and families who have limited English language proficiency. As an ELS teacher, she also works very closely with classroom teachers. In fact, classes are often co-taught meaning that she provides support working alongside the general education teacher.
Barriers to Integration, Adaptation, Success
According to Participant F, many teachers she has worked with have implicit biases and are still â€œcolorblind.â€ She noted that when she thinks about acculturation, she believes that â€œthere is still a lot of progress that can be made.â€ She further explained that when she thinks about individual level and systemic changes, there needs to be more education about the immigrant, refugee community. As an English Language Learners (ELL)specialist, Participant F believes that integration success is dependent on the amount and type of access children receive. She noted that newcomers who she works with may not speak any English, so her job is to help general education teachers understand what it means to be and English language learner. In her experience, she has noticed there is a misconception that if a newcomer speaks English they will be fine keeping with the demands of the classroom. Participant F stated that this is when she has to step in and say, â€œno, what you are seeing is a social language, but when it comes to academic language it is very difficult and we need to continue to provide them access.â€
In terms of access, Participant F noted that there is a need to make sure the students are offered a lot of initial support. She has found that using visuals and creating centers help in understanding where they are linguistically. Participant F provided an example, â€œIf students are coming in, they are at level 1, meaning that they may need to acquire basic lower level words like bathroom, friends, help.â€ Her goal is to teach social words first so that they can selfadvocate and ask for help when needed. So, the goal is to build social language and gradually include academic language. She noted that this system helps with engagement.
Process, Procedures, & Policies
Participant F explains that in the â€œELSâ€ world teachers have learning and activity days that are designated for program development and looking at language. She noted that this is not necessarily the same at each individual grade level and she wonders what is being done to support EL students/newcomers. She believes that ELâ€™s should be pushed continually because every day is a learning experience and the primary goal should be that they can exit out of programs. Participant F expressed some frustration with the current process she stated, â€œI wish I had the time to be able to attend each grade levels learning meeting to advocate and remind the team not to forget about the ELâ€™s, and newcomers.â€
Presently, Participant F is creating newcomer packets that will be distributed to new families. At the district level, she is working with the district office to create a systematic protocol that can be used when working with families and agencies as they are enrolled in the district. In addition to working with district interpreters and cultural liaisons to ensure that her packet meets all standards. Participant F believes that her packets will act as a support for teachers as well.
Celebrations â€” Reported successes or suggestions for integration processes
Participant F describes having made great strides towards success in terms of equity practices as a district. She noted that her district has a team focused primarily on providing equity to all students and staff. This office is in charge of looking at race and its impact on students of color. As a district, student status is not discussed or disclosed, meaning that students and families do not have to prove citizenship in order to attend. This policy is built in as a way to protect children and their families. On the other hand, Participant F noted that this can make it difficult to reach out to families and discuss services that are needed.
Mental Health Implications
Participant F did not discuss any information to support the theme Mental Health Implications.
Trustworthiness, Credibility and Reliability
The researcher endeavored to maintain the integrity and credibility of the research in terms of participant responses and findings regardless of their support of the researcherâ€™s hypothesis. It is the intent of this study to further understand the process of acculturation for school-age children and the relationship between community volunteer agencies and the school districts. Specifically, the researcher is interested in understanding the collaboration process that takes place between agencies and organization, including schools who work with the immigrant, refugee population. Due to the limited participant pool using a random sampling method was not used, as it would further reduce the number of participants available for the study. Instead, the researcher has elected to select participants who meet preliminary requirements, as previously discussed. It is the intent of the researcher that allowing for a Finally, detailed field notes will serve as the researcherâ€™s effort to document recognized biases and assumptions.
In order to maintain reliability, participants were interviewed using the same interview protocol. Smith (2007), argues that there is reliability when the same format is used to interview each respondent. However, within a semi-structured interview the initial protocol questions act only as an initial guide to the interview questions. As such, when participant responses, each case may look somewhat different from the next depending on the direction that the interview took. Frequent review and consultation occurred with advisors and peers during the research process. When necessary, follow-up communication occurred between the researcher and the participants in order to ensure accuracy and full understanding of responses. Participants were encouraged to review transcribed data and provide feedback to the examiner if needed.
Themes Across Cases
Identified themes were grouped into 4 categories: 1) Barriers to integration, adaptation, and success; 2) Process, procedures, and policies that contribute to the successful integration of school age children and their families; 3) Celebrations or reported suggestions for integration processes; 4) mental health implications. The above-mentioned key themes were analyzed to determine what key informants deemed important factors involved in the process of acculturation. Participants described the importance of belonging to a community. Emphasis was placed on maintaining relationships between the agencies that work with students and their families, as well as increasing language and increasing access to social and mental health networks and systems.
Building Strong Relationships
Participants indicated that introducing refugee families to community members can be beneficial when establishing relationships and creating a sense of belonging. Participants shared that establishing relationships within the school community is equally as important at an individual and group level. Several participants shared experiences where students reported
feeling supported when introduced to a group of people who have some similarity to them (i.e. language or situation). Another participant shared about the apprehension expressed by families when they are faced with communicating with school personnel.
Creating Streamlined Processes and Procedures
Participants shared about the varying requirements when enrolling students in school. One participant noted that families often do not have access to computers or smart phones, thus making the process of reviewing progress of their students records difficult. Another participant explained that some families come with very little educational training and as such require more support when learning about the United States education system.
Additionally, participants shared about the inequity in the acceptance of students coming from countries having limited access to education. These students are often underprepared to attend classes at the secondary level and the older students may be missing credits needed to graduate according to the United States education model and Coloradoâ€™s specific guidelines for graduation requirements in the traditional K-12 setting.
Participants agreed that additional education and training is needed to support school personnel in their understanding and skills involved in working with the immigrant refugee population. Some participants commented on food considerations such as including clear labels with words and pictures that explain ingredients contained in food. One participant shared about a training offered by her organization that includes community partners and providers detailed information about trauma and responsible proactive measure when working with students who have experienced trauma. This led to a discussion about the importance of provided training in trauma informed care when working with students and families.
Peer Leaders or Community Mentors
Participants described success stories related to connecting newcomers with community liaisons, partners, and mentors. These interactions were described as the first friendships for the family and children. At a school level, participants explained students feeling empowered when introduced to 2-3 people who they could identify and interact with socially.
Continued and Repeated Opportunity to Engage with the Local Community
Participants agreed that newcomers benefit from continually interacting with their local community at a level that feels best. One participant shared that her agency offers a family mentor who takes families to the mountains, museums and around the city. While other newcomers are just comfortable meeting their neighbors.
Language and Academic Support
Many participants described language as one of the greatest barriers to integration. One participant voiced this addressing the impact on a studentâ€™s access to learning when they do not understand English. Additionally, there is a great impact placed on the families when they cannot attain or maintain employment because of limited language proficiency. This is equally challenging when newcomers are unfamiliar with road signs, bus schedules, and traffic rules.
Another participant reported the discrepancy between school programs such as access to English language support services, tutoring, and New American schools. Students in some districts are bused several minutes to hours away as a way to receive appropriate programming. Resettlement agency participants reported offering many supplemental courses such as tutoring services, and service-learning groups. These programs offer newcomers opportunities to connect with other children and learn about their environment in a safe way. It was also highlighted that many programs offer dinner with the children, which builds rapport.
Mental Health Education and Services
Several participants noted concerns relating to trauma and other mental health concerns. Based on the comments it appears there are several cultural barriers and taboos which interfere with treatment and discussion around these topics. Participants shared that newcomers experiencing trauma often struggle academically and behaviorally which is occasionally incorrectly identified as defiance rather than trauma. Some participants noted the benefits of including a mental health professional on the team and having honest discussions about mental health.
Family Engagement Support
Several participants discussed family engagement programs that encourage the participation of families in their childrenâ€™s lives. These services often involve supporting parents and caregivers while emphasizing the need for parents to engage with their children. One participant described a program in which parents receive English acquisition services in exchange for required time spent in the classroom and in the school with their child. These programs appear to have unparalleled benefits.
CHAPTER IV DISCUSSION
The main goal of the study was to investigate the programs and procedures available to immigrant, refugee students that promote acculturation. There is a gap in the existing literature regarding the voices of school age children as they navigate their way through the U.S. educational and social systems. A qualitative case study framework was used to explore these experiences and design the study. This qualitative study offered an exploration of the immigrant, refugee experiences through the perspective of 6 key informants who work with the newcomer population. The participants of this study responded to questions about perceived hinderances to acculturation that restrict and limit school-age children from successfully integrating into their host community. The respondents voiced similar challenges noted by refugee/ children and their families which include programs, services, financial constraints, trauma, and interrupted education as barriers to acculturation. Participants also reported success stories of acculturation, including peer mentor relationships, contact with cultural liaisons, support services for families, training for teachers, and flexible enrollment processes. Interviews with informants, aided in an understanding of the experiences felt by immigrant, refugee school-age children. The resulting outcomes from the study describe optimal components involved in facilitating successful integration procedures for school age newcomers and their families. For example, ensuring that enrollment processes are streamlined and structured in order to gather information needed to enroll children in schools and offering programs and procedures that take into consideration interrupted education and trauma when considering programming for newcomer children. Finally, family engagement was noted by all participants as a significant factor in successful acculturation.
In addition, it is the researchers understanding that there is limited research investigating the relationship between agency, school, and community disciplines that work with the
immigrant, refugee population. Although the common interest shared by all stakeholders is clear, there appear to be significant deficits in the way in which these units communicate and work together.
Furthermore, this study sought to better understand acculturation as it is experienced by school-age newcomer children living in the Denver/Metro area. In this study, agency and school spokespersons were interviewed to provide their perspective on the lived experiences of newcomer children during their first five years of resettlement. Throughout the interviews, many common themes emerged, including: community and family relationships, processes and procedures, professional development, peer relationships, mental health, and family engagement. Findings from the research were significant, as many participants reported barriers to integration including, isolation, incidents of bullying, language limitations, inadequate training for educatorsâ€™, stigmas surrounding mental health services, low graduation rates and socioeconomic challenges. Collectively, these themes indicate that there is a strong need for newcomer children to establish deeper connections with their host community at the school and local level. Based on the results, it is evident that continued work in understanding this population is warranted. The purpose of this study is to guide future programs and systems.
Limitations of the Study and Recommendations for Future Research
While this investigation involved the participation of key informants, the shared experiences were those of informants working with the newcomer population rather than experiences of the newcomers themselves. The study involved perceptions of immigrant experiences gathered from agency spokespersons. These spokespersons offer a second-hand view of the immigrants lived experiences. As such, it is understood that the information gathered may offer an objective perspective of immigrant experiences, as they will be shared by a second party. Future researchers should attempt to interview those with personal experiences.
In addition, the study is limited to gathering data regarding the experiences of school-age children. As much of the research has indicated the significant role that home-school partnerships play in cultural integration, it may be beneficial for further researchers to obtain data discussing the shared experiences of children and their families.
Additionally, the data collection was limited to only 6 organizations, that were located in only one metro area. In essence, the research was conducted with a convenience sample of agencies located within relatively close proximity to the researcher. In future research, expanding the target area to other metropolitan areas should be considered. A less restricted analysis would allow for a comparison of differences in responses seen in varying demographic areas.
The qualitative study provided a foundational understanding of the lived experiences of immigrant, refugee school-age children specifically as their experiences are shaped by relationships, social, and academic interactions in the first five years of resettlement. This study sought to better understand the programs and services offered by districts and agencies that support in acculturation. As future researchers continue to investigate this topic it will be helpful to explore the number of programs and services that are utilized as reported by the immigrant, refugee population.
Furthermore, several participants discussed the limitations of their job and desires to support newcomers in more direct ways. Future researchers may consider investigating job satisfaction, burnout rates, and future training alternatives. Results from the interviews also brought about interest in following one student over the course of his academic career. Future researchers may want to consider a longitudinal study that investigates this possibility.
Additionally, further research in the areas of family engagement is warranted. According to the research, it is encouraged that parent involvement begin in the early academic K-6 years
prior to middle or high school. According to Goldenberg, Gallimore, Reese, & Gamier (2001), educational aspirations and patterns of achievement have been shaped in these years. Implications for School Psychology Practice
As previously mentioned, the number of school-age immigrant/refugee children in schools has grown substantially. These families are diverse by way of their nationality, religion, level of education and acculturation. With this change in the school population so is the need to meet the level of diversity with and increased awareness of working with culturally and linguistically diverse students. Several participants of this study noted that there is a deficit in the support that is offered to students at the school level. Findings from the research suggest that this discrepancy is related to limited training in the areas of equitable special education identification, trauma informed practice, personal biases-self-awareness, and psychoeducational support. Based on the results, it is clear that there is an increasing need for mental health support in schools.
The work of a school psychologist is greatly dependent on intervention, assessment, and prevention strategies. According to the research, it is clear that school age immigrant/refugee children are impacted by a number of challenges that effect their ability to integrate into the host culture, both socially and academically. Based on the findings of this study, participants indicated that school-age immigrant/refugee children often experience difficulties in the areas of mental health, academic readiness, limited language proficiency, and social emotional skill development to name a few. With that said, following factors may help to improve work with this population.
Culturally Competent Practice
School Psychologists are held to a code of conduct by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and American Psychological Association (APA). This ethical code encourages: engagement in culturally competent practice, advocacy for policies and practices that are inclusive to all children, and cultivation of positive school climates (NASP, 2012).
School Psychologists can establish positive school-wide and classroom interventions that foster a culture that is welcoming to all students, including newcomers. These interventions comprised of targeted and individualized supports may address bullying, cultural stigmas, and having open dialogues to discuss cultural differences.
Encouraging Systems Change
According to the aforementioned code of conduct, school psychologists are reminded to advocate for students at the school, district, state, and national levels. At the school level, school psychologists can improve the experiences of newcomer children through education of the school community as a whole. School Psychologists can provide professional development opportunities that address sensitive topics such as immigration, stigmas, mental health, and trauma. Several respondents reported that teachers were not fully equipped to work with students having high levels of trauma. School Psychologists can use data to promote system-wide change, inform instructional practices and increase an understanding of how to effectively work with the refugee population.
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Principal Investigator: COMIRB No:
Catherine Thompson 18-1561
October 25, 2018
ACCULTURATION: A STUDY OF THE INTEGRATION OF SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN IN THE DENVER/METRO AREA
You are being asked to be in a research study. This form provides you with information about the study. A member of the research team will describe this study to you and answer all of your questions. Please read the information below and ask questions about anything you donâ€™t understand before deciding whether or not to take part.
Why is this study being done?
The purpose of this study is to investigate acculturation as it relates to immigrant and refugee school age children. As a participant, you will be asked to discuss your experiences working with immigrant and refugee school age children. The study will further explore the programs offered by resettlement agencies that support immigrant and refugee communities. During this study, the researcher will gather background information about ways in which the current immigrant population has changed in the Denver/Metro area; the notable successes and challenges since the last study; what is working, what is failing and what more can be done to contribute to the field of research. The following research questions will be studied.
1. What programs/services promote the process of bi-cultural adaptation; including social, psychological, and cultural maintenance, thus supporting immigrant and refugee school age children in feeling like they are an active member in their school, community, and country. Additionally, what are reported outcomes or success stories from program participants.
2. Are there programs that promote individual and group level acculturation through family, community, and society engagement?
3. Are there challenges and successes experienced by immigrant and refugee children and families regarding the educational system?
This study plans to learn more about community support and resources that are available to refugees and immigrants from the view point of resettlement agency spokespersons.
You are being asked to be in this research study because you meet one or more of the items listed below.
â€¢ Resettlement agency spokespersons
â€¢ Public school educators
Consent Template Social and Behavioral CF-156, Effective 10-24-18 Page 1 of 4
â€¢ Work with first generation immigrants or refugees who are enrolled in school For this study, up to 5 participants will be involved.
What happens if I join this study?
If you join this study, you will be asked to participate in a face-to-face or telephone interview lasting approximately 30-40 minutes. If additional information is needed, you may be asked to take part in a follow-up interview.
What are the possible discomforts or risks?
There are no foreseeable risks involved in terms of your participation in this study. If you or prospective participants need more information about this study, please contact the researcher. This study may include risks that are unknown at this time.
What are the possible benefits of the study?
This study is designed for the researcher to learn more about programs and services that promote successful bi-cultural adaptation. There are several benefits associated with your participation in this study including:
â€¢ The impact of exploring acculturation challenges will lead to a better understanding of the social/emotional wellness and coping strategies of this particular community.
â€¢ The study will seek to provide a theoretical basis of which to understand acculturation, cultural integration, and resiliency factors that are directly associated with social dimensions in school-age children within this population.
â€¢ Schools and resettlement agencies will be able to better serve this population and support them during the initial and most critical years of adaptation.
â€¢ Based on the findings, professional development in this area will lead to culturally sensitive practices.
Will I be paid for being in the study? Will I have to pay for anything?
You will not be paid to be in the study, and there will be no compensation provided to the participants of this study. In addition, it will not cost you anything to be in the study.
Is my participation voluntary?
Taking part in this study is voluntary. You have the right to choose not to take part in this study. If you choose to take part, you have the right to stop at any time. If you
Consent Template Social and Behavioral CF-156, Effective 10-24-18 Page 2 of 4
refuse or decide to withdraw later, you will not lose any benefits or rights to which you are entitled.
Who do I call if I have questions?
The researcher carrying out this study is Catherine Thompson. You may ask any questions you have now. If you have questions later, you may call Catherine Thompson at720-840-1333 or email at Catherine.firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may have questions about your rights as someone in this study. You can call or email Catherine Thompson with questions. You can also call the Multiple Institutional Review Board (IRB). You can call them at 303-724-1055.
Who will see my research information?
We will do everything we can to keep your records a secret. It cannot be guaranteed.
Both the records that identify you and the consent form signed by you may be looked at by others.
â– Federal agencies that monitor human subject research
â– Human Subject Research Committee
â– The group doing the study
â– The group paying for the study
â– Regulatory officials from the institution where the research is being conducted who want to make sure the research is safe
The data we collect will be used for this study but may also be important for future research. Your data may be used for future research or distributed to other researchers for future study without additional consent if information that identifies you is removed from the data.
The results from the research may be shared at a meeting. The results from the research may be in published articles. Your name will be kept private when information is presented.
Data will be collected using a password protected recording system via the researcher's computer. Digital content will be immediately destroyed via electronic deletion following transcription. Paper data will be destroyed via shredding and electronic deletion May 2019 when graduate program and requirements are completed.
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Agreement to be in this study
I have read this paper about the study or it was read to me. I understand the possible risks and benefits of this study. I know that being in this study is voluntary. I choose to be in this study: I will get a copy of this consent form.
Consent form explained by Date:
Print Name: [
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*Survey was adapted from Rachel Verbeek's Cultural Orientation of Refugees, (2008) survey.
Research Interview Protocol
SERVICE PROVIDER INTERVIEW Agency #__________________
Name of Agency____________________________________________________________________
Name of Respondent______________________________________________________________
1. What is your role in the resettlement process and how long have you worked with the refugee/immigrant population?
2. What are the countries of the participants you have worked with?
3. What types of services does your agency/school provide that address the acculturation process of â€œnewcomersâ€ into the community? Community is defined as Denver, Aurora, or the school age childâ€™s school setting. How are these services delivered?
4. What is the process when a newcomer is enrolled in school? Does the process vary by level (e.g. elementary, middle school, high school)?
5. Is there a tracking system used to monitor acculturation/integration programs/services? If so, what is it?
6. What do you perceive as characteristics that are associated with successful adjustment into the school/local community for newcomer children?
7. How does your organization (school/resettlement agency) encourage family engagement during this transition?
8. What do you perceive as a hindrance to successful acculturation for a school age child and their families?
9. Please discuss factors that limit access to the general education curriculum (social and academic)
10. What is the agency to school relationship? Are there any challenges with this process?
11. In what ways have you found teachers to be prepared to work with this population?
12. What challenges are reported by newcomers in defining their new/current identity?
13. Would you be interested in participating in a follow-up interview if necessary.