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At-Risk Immigrant and Refugee Youth Prairie Metropolis Brown Bag Presentation Edmonton, AB – December16, 2008 Marian J. Rossiter Department of Educational.

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Presentation on theme: "At-Risk Immigrant and Refugee Youth Prairie Metropolis Brown Bag Presentation Edmonton, AB – December16, 2008 Marian J. Rossiter Department of Educational."— Presentation transcript:

1 At-Risk Immigrant and Refugee Youth Prairie Metropolis Brown Bag Presentation Edmonton, AB – December16, 2008 Marian J. Rossiter Department of Educational Psychology University of Alberta

2 Acknowledgements –Professionals and community stakeholders –Anne Marie Brose, Hui-I Cho, Rayleen Brosha, Sheila Johnson, Lesli Nessim, Katherine Rossiter –University of Alberta’s Endowment Fund for the Future - Support for the Advancement of Scholarship Program

3 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Self-actualisation Esteem Belonging Safety Physiological

4 Background Limited research exists on race, ethnicity, or immigration status and crime in the Canadian context (Wortley, 2003a, 2003b). There is an urgent need for research to better understand the relationship between race, ethnicity, immigration, and crime.

5 Research Questions What are the characteristics of immigrant youth who come into conflict with the justice system? What criminal activities are they engaged in? Which factors exert a negative influence on immigrant youth and on those who eventually become involved in crime, gangs, and/or violence? Which factors exert a positive influence on immigrant youth?

6 Method Community stakeholders (n=12) –Multicultural social services –Immigrant-serving community agencies –Immigrant community representatives –Legal and correctional services –Health and mental health services Semi-structured interviews (1-1.5 hours) Qualitative content analysis

7 Immigrant Youth and Crime Boys are more involved in crime than girls. Criminal activity begins around age 10-12/ and often drops off around age The most common criminal activities are drug dealing, property crimes, assault, prostitution, sexual assault, and homicide.

8 Immigrant Youth and Crime All immigrant and refugee groups have some youth involved in crime, and a majority of youth who are not. “Immigrant and more specifically refugee youth are a very easy target population [for gangs]. And so this is who they will target very early on – early on meaning either very early after they’ve arrived here, or very early age-wise.”

9 Immigrant Youth and Crime “If you are a child and you don’t have access to basic needs, there are two alternatives: children’s services or the gang.” “A lot of the girls end up in prostitution and escort businesses. If they’re beautiful, they want them so badly in those businesses.”

10 Risk and protective factors –Family –School –Peer-related –Community and neighbourhood –Social –Individual Research Findings

11 Family Risk Factors Stresses of adaptation to life in Canada Need for parents to hold multiple jobs  lack of supervision/discipline of youth, limited family time Conflict between children and parents Breakdown of the family unit (violence) Female-headed single-parent families

12 Family Risk Factors “[Some youth] come not so much in a family, but when they come they might have an aunt or uncle or pre-existing friends…. And they’ll not have the support that they need.” “Their families are struggling with trying to survive… they absolutely lose the power to parent their kids in the way that they would have parented them elsewhere, including refugee camps.”

13 Family Risk Factors “The family… thinks that everything is going to be golden when they get here. They find out quickly that it’s not golden, it’s rusted…. They are coming into a society that is totally full of money. They want everything. They expect that they should have everything somehow by magic.”

14 Family Risk Factors “…if there is an expectation or a value within your culture that you're supposed to contribute to the family and the well-being of the family and you see your parents struggling to work, you don't have the right clothes, you're just barely getting by, then when somebody then approaches you and offers you $200 to run this little bag of dope across town, that can be a big incentive... especially when other doors are closed for you...”

15 Family Risk Factors “…8 out of every 10 kids… that we get out of a gang went in for survival. And it was basic. They didn't have appropriate accommodation. They didn't have food, they didn't have clothes. Their parents couldn't pay the bills. And their parents said 'Okay, just do it part- time.' Sometimes parents okay it because they know they can't [pay their bills] at the end of the month from work.”

16 School Risk Factors Limited or interrupted formal education Age-appropriate placement Pressure to push kids through the system before they turn 20 Inadequate ESL support Lack of intercultural competence – staff Zero tolerance policies, resulting in numerous suspensions and expulsions

17 School Risk Factors “Education – I think that’s where we’re failing right from the onset.” “It’s like being drowned in the ocean and not being able to swim.” “Our system is humiliating these kids and helping them associate school with failure.”

18 School Risk Factors “Some kids, especially the youth, have been supporting their single moms with their other siblings. Back in the refugee camps, they could be carrying stuff and helping and getting a little bit of money and then support mom. But, here, they are finding it hard… to go to school and to go to work to make the money.”

19 Gang Recruitment at School “One of the moms I work with said, ‘I have to come here every day after school because I know some of the drug dealers are right here in the school playground’ and she has boys so she said she has to make sure ‘…they don’t get them before I do.’” “In the early targeting stages, if the parents make difficulties, [recruiters] are going to go for an easier target.”

20 Peer Risk Factors Difficulty developing social networks, especially outside their own ethnic group Isolation and exclusion Discrimination, victimization Inter-ethnic conflict among youth

21 Peer Risk Factors “There is serious discrimination, bullying that happens for most of these kids and so their families have talked about it, but they felt helpless. They didn’t know what to do. The kids felt helpless, too, because they were not able to fight, which is the way they know how.”

22 Peer Risk Factors “You can have the best family, but they can meet someone down the street who changes their whole life in just one week’s time…. The things that concern me are when you start to get a group together and start making it a lifestyle and start replacing important people… like your mum or dad… with a friend of questionable background.”

23 Peer Risk Factors “You’ve got to have the outfit, you’ve got to have the shoes, no matter what you do; otherwise, you’re going to be sitting way over there, totally isolated and alienated, which is almost impossible for these young people to face…. That means that you have to make money... prostitution… part-time work… drug- dealing… other illegal activity… you have to fit in.”

24 Community Risk Factors Immigrant community may not be well established in Canada Limited support network in the community Few leadership roles for youth or role models in the schools and community

25 Community Risk Factors “It needs to be [newcomers’] own community of people who start to put the support in place and start to recognize that they need to be proactive, but they are not organized enough. They don't have the resources yet because so many of them are struggling to make their own way, working so many jobs, etc.”

26 Community Risk Factors “Back home, it’s the whole village that looks after a child; here, the neighbour calls the police.” “[T]hey’re often sort of torn in terms of their identity, in terms of where they belong.” “If you have a community where a few of the boys get recruited, then it kind of goes like wild fire.”

27 Social Risk Factors Poverty – unemployment / underemployment Lack of safe, affordable housing Economic boom, creating a market for hard drugs (e.g., crack cocaine, crystal meth)

28 Social Risk Factors “…if they’re dependent on government housing, it puts them in a place where there is a lot of dysfunction in the community – a lot of violence and where there is a lot of violence, a lot of chaos, a lot of drug dealing, a lot of trouble in general where you have to watch your back. The dilemma is that in order to survive there you have to do the same thing as what everybody else is doing.”

29 Social Risk Factors Subsidized housing has created “zones for decay for immigrant children”. “That’s probably what leads into a lot of the crimes - living in subsidized housing.” “They are choosing that road [crime] because they are desperate and they need to support their families.”

30 Social Risk Factors “…some [newcomers], I'll be honest with you, are better off in refugee camps… there, they actually have a support system in place. They might not have food; they might not eat five times a day, but I know they have a social and emotional support right there under their tent."

31 Social Risk Factors “If you’re going to have… immigrant youth come here, you either change our system somewhat to accommodate them, or you’re going to face failures. And the cost to society for this is going to be astronomical – it’s going to be huge.”

32 Individual Risk Factors Mental health issues –Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) –Depression –Personality Disorders Substance abuse (youth, families) Powerlessness, hopelessness, alienation

33 Individual Risk Factors “Mental health is a huge issue…. You don’t want to tell people your troubles because you already got here… [you don’t] want anybody to know…. Eventually, it’s going to overwhelm them.” “People who come from war-torn zones and have post-traumatic stress or anxiety – all their symptoms basically prevent them from learning and adapting.”

34 Individual Risk Factors “It’s easy to learn Grade 7 science, but it’s hard to get off crack cocaine.” “She said, ‘I know I lost my family to the war, but I am losing my children to a war that I don’t even know how to fight.’”

35 Protective Factors Parental support and time with children Adequate support at school; ESL and life skills training, marketable skills for employment Community support and sense of belonging (e.g., school, cultural, faith groups) Individual strength and resilience

36 Protective Factors “Not having [education] is what’s creating the push in the other direction, and having it is what would save them.” “…creating opportunities for young people to participate in the world around them in positive ways…” “…a sense of identity, sense of belonging, sense of accomplishment, sense of just having fun…”

37 Protective Factors "I think we underestimate the power of choice; a lot of kids – even when they are being pounded on and have terrible nightmares, and have this disorder and that disorder and no stability in their lives – they are still able to make a smart choice.”

38 Conclusions “ We need more proactive, preventative measures within the community rather than relying on the justice system to provide youth with the services they need after the fact.”

39 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Self-actualisation Esteem Belonging Safety Physiological

40 Conclusions Elimination of transportation loans Network of systems to support families and cultural communities ESL (critical for academic and employment success); greater efforts in all schools to value ELLs and address their needs

41 Teacher preparation Equipping teachers with… the ability to deliver differentiated instruction; knowledge of the second language acquisition process - and the importance for immigrant families to maintain their L1 in the home; an understanding of immigrant and refugee children, the backgrounds from which they come, and the adjustment difficulties that they and their families face; intercultural competence/communication skills.

42 Teacher preparation Pre-service teacher preparation encouraging more community service- learning projects at all levels within our undergraduate classes maximizing the opportunities provided by our formal field experience program (in schools with high-needs ESL populations, following curriculum and instruction courses).

43 Future Directions Phase Two –Participants are immigrant or refugee youth in the community who have come into conflict with the criminal justice system –Semi-structured interviews with 25 youth –Interview questions focus on background, adaptation, family situation, school situation, individual factors, employment, contact with the police, activities, supports, and recommendations for bridging gaps in services

44 Thank you.


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