Academic journal article Child Welfare

Effective Child Welfare Practice with Immigrant and Refugee Children and Their Families

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Effective Child Welfare Practice with Immigrant and Refugee Children and Their Families

Article excerpt

This article presents a multistage migration framework to broaden the lens through which child welfare personnel can view immigrant and refugee families and their children. By better understanding the family's experiences in both emigration and immigration, including reasons for leaving their home country, experiences in transit, and reception and resettlement experiences in the United States, child welfare personnel are better equipped to assess their needs and provide effective prevention, protection, permanency, and family preservation services. Case examples illustrating the application of the framework and guidelines for program and practice are included.

Immigrant children constitute one of the fastest growing groups in the United States today, with their numbers increasing to an estimated 9 million by 2010 (Fix & Passel, 1994). Some of these children, by reason of their families' experiences in migration and resettlement, are likely to need child welfare services, which in the United States are designed for the most vulnerable children-those at risk of neglect, abuse, abandonment, or separation from their families and placement in out-of-home care. Typically, child welfare services include prevention, child protection, family preservation, foster care, adoption, and preparation for emancipation (Maluccio, Pine, & Tracy, 2002).

Until recently, however, little attention has been given in the literature to the needs of immigrant children. Moreover, the social work literature on immigrants and immigration has mainly emphasized only one part of the migration process: the immigrants' experience in this country (Drachman & Paulino, 2004).

Social workers who provide child welfare services must identify sources of support and stress in the relationships between families and their environment, and develop their intervention strategies accordingly. To provide effective services for immigrants that are family-centered and culturally competent, child welfare practitioners must understand the child and family's experiences in both emigration and immigration.

This article uses a multistage framework on the migration and resettlement experience to demonstrate how understanding the migration experiences and different immigrant groupstransnational, circular, return, and undocumented-is critical for effective services to families and their children (Drachman, 1992; Drachman & Paulino, 2004). The framework, which emphasizes the circular processes of the migration experience, includes an examination of the premigration experience and the reasons for leaving the country of origin, the journey to the resettlement country, the reception from the resettlement country, and in some cases, the return to the country of origin.

After an overview of the numbers and needs of immigrant families and children in the United States, attention is given to immigrant families' status, a critical aspect of their reception and eligibility for needed services during their resettlement. Because a number of risk factors emanate from recent immigration policies, those most related to child welfare services will be delineated.

A discussion of the multistage framework follows this overview. The framework has been used to analyze the experiences of various immigrant groups, including Southeast Asians (O & Porr, 1990), Haitians (DeWind, 1990), Cubans (Gil, 1990), Russians (Drachman & Halberstadt, 1992; Mandel, 1990), Koreans (Drachman, Kwon-Ahn, & Paulino, 1996), and Dominicans (Drachman et al., 1996). Its implications for child welfare practice, however, have yet to be explored. Case examples that emphasize permanency planning, child protection, family preservation, and reunification help highlight the experiences of immigrant and refugee families and underscore the need to view the migration experience broadly.

The article concludes with a set of guidelines for program and practice with immigrant families that emphasize a "humanitarian voice" in helping them secure the welfare of their children (Drachman, in press) and find services that embody the principles of prevention, permanency, protection, and family preservation. …

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