The Moving Forward Project: Working with Refugee Children, Youth, and their Families

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McKay, S., Fuchs, D. & Brown, I. (Eds.). Passion for Action in Child and Family Services: Voices from the Prairies. Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Center: pp. 143-164.

The Moving Forward project was developed in 2004 to respond to the needs of refugee children, youth, and families coming from war-affected regions and situations of extreme violence. The primary components of this project were education, intervention, resource development and dissemination. The team, in consultation with an advisory committee, set up an orientation program for everyone involved in the project, and facilitated group sessions for parents and for youth. Major challenges included the lack of strong English language and literacy skills among participants in the program. The project emphasized the importance of creating a safe space where parents could meet, build new relationships (especially relationships of trust), feel safe, laugh, cry, and begin to build community. While one might approach working with children and youth differently from working with adults, the overall goals of prevention and empowerment remain the same. This project exposed the strong influence of Western ways of “doing and thinking,” and challenged the team as a whole to rethink how one might provide programs and services in contexts where populations are becoming increasingly culturally diverse and where migration has been a strong influence on these changes. Services to address the child welfare needs of refugee children would reflect a commitment to prevention, and to creating the kinds of strong community supports and infrastructures that would enhance access and utilization by refugee children, youth, and their families.

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