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This Week in PubHub: Immigrants and Their Children

October 28, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she looked at four reports that explored the essential role of arts and culture.)

With immigration policy one of the hotly debated issues in the run-up to the November 2 midterm elections, this week PubHub is highlighting reports that examine the integration of immigrant families, with a focus on their children, native- and foreign-born.

According to The Integration of Immigrants and Their Families in Maryland: A Look at Children of Immigrants and Their Families in Maryland, prepared by the Urban Institute for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in 2006 almost one in five children in the state had at least one foreign-born parent. While the poverty rate among children of immigrants is comparatively low, roughly 27 percent live in near-poverty (i.e., family income below 200 percent of the poverty line). The report also found that the number of limited-English-proficient students in public schools statewide doubled between 2000 and 2007, and that there were wide racial/ethnic discrepancies in school readiness and performance. To help close the gap, the authors recommend a three-prong strategy: providing adult education, language, and job skills training to parents; improving access to child care and preschool programs; and strengthening targeted programs for English-language learners and at-risk students.

English-language learners are the focus of Reparable Harm: Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for Long Term English Learners, a report from Californians Together. The study argues that the state's one-size-fits-all education reforms have resulted in a generation of secondary school students who, after years of either having little or no access to effective language development programs and/or being socially and linguistically segregated, are neither proficient in English nor on track to graduate on time. The report lays out basic principles for addressing the needs of long-term English-learners and recommends a comprehensive secondary school program that includes specialized courses, clustered placement in heterogeneous and rigorous grade-level content classes, explicit language and literacy development across the curriculum, and systems for monitoring progress and triggering support.

English language acquisition isn't the only obstacle children of immigrants, some of whom arrive as refugees, have to overcome. Partnering With Parents and Families to Support Immigrant and Refugee Children at School, a 2009 issue brief from the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, explores the impact of refugee and immigrant experiences on children — from trauma that results in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and behavioral problems to the pressures of serving as their families' interpreters and negotiators — and their unmet mental health needs. Among other things, the report outlines a number of considerations for working with students' families and school staff in offering school-based mental health programs, including breaking down cultural stigmas and learning to recognize the signs of trauma and stress.

One traumatic experience many children of immigrants must live through is the deportation of an undocumented parent. The Urban Institute's Facing Our Future: Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement analyzes the impact of family separation due to arrest, detention, and/or deportation on children’s physical as well as mental well-being, including safety, food security, housing stability, and behavioral issues. The authors recommend changes to immigration laws, enforcement strategies, and the responses of community groups and public agencies in order to mitigate the hardships children suffer in the process.

Given that 25 percent of foreign-born children and 16 percent of native-born children of immigrants do not graduate from high school, addressing the educational and mental well-being of immigrant children is an urgent matter if America is live up to its promise in the twenty-first century. What role can philanthropy play in strengthening existing services for immigrant children? And which strategies and programs, if any, have already proved to be effective? Use the comments box below to share your thoughts.

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse more than seventy immigration-related reports.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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