Integration of International Families Alignment Team
In 2014, the former Refugee and Immigrant Support Services Committee re-formed itself as the Integration of International Families Alignment Team, and began its new journey by looking at the following key questions:
- How can we support the civic engagement of international families in Nashville?
- How can we support the development of a unified, effective way to address the linguistic needs of international families in Nashville?
- How can we support economic and financial literacy for international families in Nashville?
Understanding that many of the immediate, basic needs of recently resettled refugee or new immigrant families in Nashville are already being met by a wide swath of effective service organizations, the team realized there are other, subtler needs at play for many international families, such as job skill development, English comprehension for specific needs (such as legal or banking), and understanding/navigating the school system your child has entered. As noted by Amy Richardson, IIF A-Team member representing Vanderbilt, new families often come from places where educational systems look very different, if they exist at all. At times, parents have had no experience with school themselves and feel unequipped to engage with their children or teachers and administrators.
LEAF – Learning, Educating, and Advancing Families – is a collaborative community night currently in development that will take place on a regular basis at a Metro Nashville middle school to be determined. The recurring evening event is designed to meet some of the linguistic, academic, and personal development needs of the international community in Nashville and in MNPS. Through MNPS English Language Learners’ (ELL) Office resources and engaged partners, the community night will offer a breadth of simultaneous services to EL families -- both parents and students.
The Integration of International Families (IIF) Alignment Team is currently developing a tactical plan that will outline steps for how best to support LEAF community nights. The A-Team is also surveying international families on their general needs via surveys that have gone out through our partner, Salvation Army, and the ELL Office. The team will use this information to determine exactly what to appeal for in the initial Invitation to ParticipateTM, to be released sometime in late 2015/early 2016 to engage service partners on this important tactic.
MNPS’ ELL Office has committed to providing professional ESL (English as second language) teachers to conduct adult English classes to participants, and the IIF A-Team plans to use the Alignment process to engage partners to offer additional services across the board to families and students, such as:
- MNPS process/procedure information
- getting engaged with your child’s school/teachers/PTO
- finance/banking classes
- civic engagement and voting
- goal-setting/coaching services
- employment/career planning services
- GED classes
- legal assistance
- elementary & middle reading clinics/tutoring
- immigration/citizenship classes
- translation services
- referrals/clinic information; select health services
- and other services as requested via our family survey.
The Integration of International Families A-Team is excited to see this event come together and scale up over the next year to serve as many international families within MNPS as possible.
LONG TERM OUTCOME:
Increase High School Graduation Rate (particularly for EL students)
Increased Community Prosperity
At least 10% of parent/family attendees report better understanding of MNPS processes/procedures, graduation requirements, and/or child's school experience.
2016 EL Student literacy reporting will show an increase in scores by 3%.
SHORT TERM OUTCOMES:
At least 75% of parent or family attendees surveyed would recommend LEAF nights to a friend.
Amy Richardson, Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health
Why do you feel refugee and immigrant families need additional support when it comes to their children's academic needs? Refugee and immigrant families often come from places where educational systems look very different, if they exist at all. At times, parents have had no experience with school themselves and feel unequipped to engage with their children or school teachers/administrators.
Why would you recommend that school staff utilize the online RISS Resources? The online RISS Resources guide compiles resources that can assist families and students. To facilitate the adjustment process for newcomer individuals and families, service providers must address basic needs in order to attend to emotional, academic, social, and occupational needs as well (McNeely et al., 2010).
What additional ways can the community support refugee and immigrant families in helping their children succeed in school? Engage in cultural education activities to better understand the background, context, and needs of refugee and immigrant students and families. Use scaffolding techniques to teach, assist, model, and observe with both students and families. Continue developing partnerships with other refugee- and immigrant-serving agencies in Nashville. Promote family-strengthening activities. Create opportunities and environments for students and families to share their culture.