04 SES 11 A, Educational Provision for Refugee Children and Families Across Europe: Fostering dialogue across education, health, and protection services
Following the wave of migrants arriving in Europe in the last few years, the number of children from asylum-seeker and refugee families has grown dramatically in Italy. Consequently, schools and child psychology services are currently facing new challenges in helping refugee children settle in the new environment. In fact, children and families from a refugee background seem to escape the technical view usually adopted by educational and health practitioners, which is based on a mixture of diagnostic tests and special needs policies. This approach struggles to cope with the multiple needs - in terms of health, culture, language, and learning - involved in taking care of refugee children. As a consequence, even though services multiply their efforts to ensure consultation and support, experiences of frustration and inadequacy about reciprocal relationships are quite common among practitioners and refugee families. On the suggestion of two educational and health services from northern Italy, we carried out an action research study aimed to understand how schools and child psychology services can increase effectiveness and quality of programs addressed to refugee children and families. The study is divided into three section, as it wanted 1) to determine the structural reasons behind the recurrent services failure in managing refugee cases; 2) to describe the specific features of some good practices that a group of practitioners had been able to develop over time; and 3) to design a learning program to transfer the knowledge embedded in such good practices throughout the services. The paper will focus on results related to the sections 1 and 2. Research was developed using an ethnographic approach, based on the extended collection of services documentation and semistructured interviews held with practitioners working in child psychology services and schools. This allowed us to analyse the “deep stories” of several single cases that had been managed across those services over time. Investigation shows that in managing cases practitioners often adopt an implicit "vulnerability paradigm" that colludes to reinforce institutional control instead of empowering refugee children and their families. Nevertheless, we also found examples of alternative narratives and good practices emerging from a group of practitioners who developed inter-professional and multi-agency cooperation. Results suggest that such practices would help services review their current approach by 1) developing a holistic perspective of the needs of refugee children and 2) fostering multi-agency work through the dissemination of inter-professional collaboration.
Arnot, M., Pinson H. 2005. The Education of Asylum-Seeker and Refugee Children: A Study of LEA and School Values, Policies and Practices. Cambridge: University of Cambridge. Block, K. et al. 2014. Supporting schools to create an inclusive environment for refugee students. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 18 (12): 1337 – 1355. Edwards, A. 2010. Being an expert professional practitioner: The relational turn in expertise. New York: Springer. EASO 2016. Latest asylum trends – August 2016 Number of applications for international protection in the EU+, https://goo.gl/bFGccx (accessed 1/12/2017). Hamilton, R., Moore, D. 2004. Educational interventions for refugee children: Theoretical perspectives and implementing best practice. London: Routledge Falmer. Keddie, A. 2012. Refugee Education and Justice Issues of Representation, Redistribution and Recognition. Cambridge Journal of Education 42 (2): 197–212. Rivera, H. et al. 2016. Infusing sociocultural perspectives into capacity building activities to meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers. Canadian Psychology, 57(4), 320. Taylor, S., Sidhu, R. K.. 2012. Supporting refugee students in schools: what constitutes inclusive education? International Journal of Inclusive Education 16 (1): 39–56. UN High Commissioner for Refugees 2016. Italy Country Update - November 2016, https://goo.gl/Bi6saE (accessed 1/12/2017)
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