Children Who Are Recently Arrived in the Community: Evaluation of the Programs

Introduction

Ensuring a comprehensive development in childhood is a determinant of future positive outcomes of both individual and, more generally, community growth as a whole. Therefore, it is to be a main priority of each society to mitigate the potential risks that are able to prevent every child from getting access to a well-organized and holistic nurturing of his or her own personality. This issue is especially acute in respect to young individuals who have just arrived in a foreign country. In this regard, the paper provides an analysis of two programs aimed to deliver thorough adaptation assistance to this category of children through the lens of Total Environmental Assessment Model for Early Child Development (TEAM-ECD).

To start with, Auburn Diversity Services, Inc. (ADSI) (2014) is a local nonprofit organization offering a wide range of services to newly arrived migrants, refugees and humanitarian entrants in Auburn, Australia (Ying, personal communication, March 30, 2015). In contrast, Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) is a US federal state-funded project providing multidimensional early education and development assistance to children from birth to age five in low-income families including migrants (Park & McHugh, 2014). Although the latter does not focus on the newly arrived migrants specifically, its vision and mission involve addressing the needs of the target audience in a number of ways. The area of vulnerability related to the intended audience is broad. In particular, the greatest concerns for these children may occur in the personality, health, family-based, as well as larger socio-economic, cultural and community contexts, to list but a few. As a result, the aforementioned programs aspire to make early interventions and prevent the potential negative outcomes for the indicated category of children. These aspects involve socialization of children on the basis of access to health care, education and being a part of a community on the grounds equal with other individuals, among others.

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A Comparative Analysis of the Programs

Drawing upon the assessment framework presented by Siddiqi, Irwin, and Hertzman (2007), it is necessary to develop young generations on the basis of an equity-based approach to providing nurturant environments for children everywhere (Siddiqi et al., 2007, p. 4). In this respect, the two programs attempt to practice this hypothesis by developing comprehensive strategies in order to assist the population at risk in a properly thought out manner.

First and foremost, for early child development (ECD) to be appropriate, it is necessary to balance the biological factors and environments, in which he or she resides, with an emphasis put on family environment (Siddiqi et al., 2007). Given the ADSI project, its implementers offer family relationship support, assistance to adult family members with employment, housing, and English learning courses as a way to contribute to their overall socio-economic wellbeing enhancement (ADSI, 2014). For this reason, the children are enabled with an opportunity to be secured within their home environment. In terms of HS program, it is more children-focused whereas the implementers put maximal efforts to ensure their comprehensive development. Specifically, the project ensures their emotional and psychological support, offers healthy nutrition during stay in HS centers or at-home basis, and provides physical examination and dentist services among other advantages (Park & McHugh, 2014; Crosnoe, 2013). At the same time, parents are regarded direct participants of the ECD process and their involvement into the project is also taken into account. To be more precise, HS is able to assist them with housing, if needed, transition services, family goal-setting (Karoly & Gonzalez, 2011) while active engagement of the parents into the actual learning of their children and decision making in this respect are critical aspects of a thorough socialization of the adults and children simultaneously. For instance, since the indicated audience comprises of foreigners, the classes on oral language development and emergent literacy skills as crucial for the newcomers adaptation to the host country (Bierman, Nix, Domitrovich, Welsh, & Gest, 2014, p. 2111) are frequently performed with parents participation (Park & McHugh, 2014). In this way, the vital skills, which may be delayed based on economic instability of their families, are enhanced along with their parents support.

Apart from that, both programs attempt to create nurturant social, psychical and economic conditions for the target category of children by means of residential community support (Siddiqi et al., 2007, p. 5). For example, the atmosphere developed by HS allows the young representatives of multiple communities, which are of low-income, disadvantaged, and vulnerable, to be set within the equal conditions, learn and interact with one another due to an array of ECD activities (Park & McHugh, 2014). However, the issue of multilingual communication in the center-based services has not been highlighted while home-focused services are bilingual (Karoly & Gonzalez, 2011). On a similar note, ADSI (2014) arranges its services on the multicultural basis since its employees and volunteers communicate on twelve languages, which enables the participants of the program to experience connectedness to the relational community. This factor ensures their smoother transition to the new environment, minimizing the manifestations of stress, and creating necessary psychological and emotional comfort for the children and their entire family. Moreover, both programs introduce cultural events, which is an additional stimulus for mitigating the psychological discomfort of the newly arrived individuals.

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Overall, the programs discussed offer sufficient value for the target audience though the extent of their impact differs. Indeed, ADSI focuses on the chosen vulnerable group specifically and its reference to the multiculturalism is win-win for children adaptation to the new country. In this case, such risks are mitigated as potential racial discrimination, racism and language barriers (Crosnoe, 2013; Karoly & Gonzalez, 2011). In addition, a broad scope of assistance to adult family members, such as housing, employment, English learning, etc., is favorable for facilitation of nurturing the home-centered environment for the children due to the fact that their parents socio-economic state is secured. In this respect, the problem of poverty as another risk factor for comprehensive children development can be addressed (Crosnoe, 2013; Karoly & Gonzalez, 2011). On the contrary, the effect of HS policies is a little different. On the one hand, an emphasis is put on equality between diverse minority group members. This aspect is manifested through accessibility to up-to-date ECD services, all-embracing children development, physical and mental health care, among other advantages (Park & McHugh, 2014). Nonetheless, a multicultural approach seems rather diluted because in-center programs are mostly English-based though Spanish language is also present. On the other hand, parents involvement in curricula decision making may allow them change the situation and enhance stronger relative community bonds for the children enrolled (Crosnoe, 2013; Karoly & Gonzalez, 2011; Park & McHugh, 2014). This feeling of being empowered and equal to other parents can be regarded as positive, anti-discriminating positioning in the host society, as well. Finally, the fact that respectable organizations and government agencies are partnered by the projects is a positive aspect to consider: for example, Commonwealth Department of Social Services for ADSI and US Department of Health and Human Services for HS program. This circumstance implies the significance of institutional involvement in terms of more expanded scope of addressing the needs of the target population, which is a step forward to arrangement of regional and nationwide nurturing environment respectively (Siddiqi et al., 2007).

Drawing upon the information collected, the analyzed programs have both strengths and limitations. For example, ADSI is characterized by a strong relational and residential community support for the target category of children. In other words, ADSI provides more comprehensive opportunities for the family as a unit rather than offering a fragmented support for a particular vulnerable group of migrants. To illustrate, its competitive portfolio is diversified per Settlement, Community and Corporate Services (ADSI, 2014). In this way, a multidimensional approach towards addressing the needs of children is established from this perspective, which is a well-reasoned and effective method of their adaptation and ECD at large. In contrast, HS has better articulated individual assistance in terms of enhancement of their biological factors, social skills, as well as personality development that are considered with a little attention by ADSI. By the same token, the implications of the influence on their familys better community positioning is traceable in a less degree given the HS initiative. Therefore, it can be concluded that ADSI arranges its performance in the light of children and their families adaptation leaving room for their native ethnicity development while HS seems to be more focused on a smoother assimilation of the newcomers as productive host society members. Finally, properly thought out and arranged collaborative work of families and project implementers for the common good is a uniting factor that is thoroughly adhered to by both programs. While HS emphasizes shared learning activities, parent partnerships commitment, and home-learning environment (Jackson & Needleman, 2014, pp. 39-40), ADSI pays more attention to a moral and rights-based approach dealing with the nature of learning environment and process (Jackson & Needleman, 2014, p. 42).

Additionally, ADSI has overlooked health-related aspects of assistance to the intended audience, which is a substantial limitation of this program whereas this risk is of great significance to the newcomers. As for the HS project, its blurred approach to multiculturalism is a sufficient barrier to a larger scope of its effectiveness and more holistic positive outcomes. Specifically, HS has not considered several issues undermining the overall effectiveness of its framework including the fadeout of barriers after program exit, variable quality among programs [on a statewide basis], and tensions between communities and schools (Park & McHugh, 2014, p. 8). Nevertheless, HS has strong US nationwide presence throughout the country while each state has its specificities with regard to the program context (Park & McHugh, 2014), which underlines flexibility of its initiatives and possibilities of constant updating as a great advantage.

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Overall, the strategies developed by ADSI and HS respond to the needs of the vulnerable group in a variety of ways and a number of methods are used by each project to reach the intended families. First, both projects are well highlighted online, with ample information provided on their websites. Even though the digital age may find this feature a notable success determinant, the families coming to foreign countries can origin from very poor communities. Hence, a technology-mediated approach is not considered by the programs as single. For instance, ADSI also arranges information sessions, spreads flyers and brochures, and counts on word of mouth strategies (Ying, personal communication, March 30, 2015). On a similar note, a favorable perspective for HS programs is its federal coverage and linkage to local government agencies and organizations related to immigration and social service fields (Park & McHugh, 2014). As a result, HS seemingly has more factors of influence and reaching the target audience. Nonetheless, Figure 1 below illustrates that HS does not manage to enroll substantial part of migrant children meaning that their needs remain unaddressed.

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Figure 1. HS enrollment of children of US-born and foreign-born parents (Park & McHugh, 2014, p. 7)

The researchers and practitioners exploring the problem discussed in the paper have emphasized that broadening the scope of partnerships within communities will enable the programs with opportunities to reach the target audience in a more efficient way (Park & McHugh, 2014; Bierman et al., 2014). Thus, this issue should be considered by both programs.

Conclusion

Summarizing the discussion, it is relevant to assert that the ADSI and HS programs are valuable opportunities for children who just arrived in the foreign country to enter the new community with the possibility of not be stigmatized as disadvantaged population. In particular, ADSI offers a number of services that empower the entire migrant families in terms of creation of favorable socio-economic climate within their homes. In this way, assistance with immigration issues, employment, and housing, among other aspects helps children to obtain a secured background that further enhances their ECD. Moreover, this local project is multicultural, which enables mitigation of racism and racial discrimination risks for the target audience. On the contrary, the approach taken by the HS project is more individual-focused, whereas the children are enrolled on the income equality grounds. Of course, they are provided with physical and mental health advancement and up-to-date learning opportunities. However, welcoming methods of the residential community undermine the role of their connectedness to relational one, which compromises the effectiveness of the program at large.

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