Toronto Metropolitan University
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Serving Immigrant Families [Working Paper]: Using Knowledge Translation to Inform a Family Approach in the Settlement Sector

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-05-21, 16:38 authored by Tania Dargy
Executive Summary (English Version) Funding from IRCC to Service Provider Organizations throughout Canada (except Quebec) has enabled 412,390 newcomers to access settlement services in the last year (IRCC, 2017d). Stakeholders of the settlement sector agree that the settlement outcomes of immigrants “will have significant and long-term impacts on the cohesion and strength of Canadian society" (OCASI, 2011, p.2). IRCC, as one of the largest stakeholders of the successful integration of immigrants, has expressed its commitment to working with immigrant serving agencies "to build a client-centered approach" for program design and delivery of settlement services (OCASI, 2010, p.4). At the same time, IRCC values rigorous academic research focused on immigration and settlement to better inform evidence-based policy. Upon close examination of settlement policy, we find that there is a significant gap between recent empirical findings and current settlement service models. IRCC funded settlement services conceptualize and thereby treat immigrants as discrete individual units. However, empirical studies demonstrate that a fundamental dimension of the settlement process is experienced at the relational, social, and family levels. The Integration Trajectories of Immigrant Families project unveils new findings on the family as a key unit of analysis for settlement. This evidence provides a unique opportunity to improve the current settlement service framework. This position paper directly targets decision-makers for settlement policy. Three overarching orientations for action were identified: • Need to complicate the current conceptualization of immigrants as individuals • Need to incorporate a holistic family approach in settlement policy and services • Need to draw on empirical evidence that recognizes and lends support to settlement workers' first-hand observations and experience-driven insight Through ongoing consultations with two prominent settlement agencies in the Greater Toronto Area, empirical knowledge combined with settlement practitioner observations were translated into a holistic evidence-based, client-centered framework for settlement services: A Family Approach. Incorporating a Family Approach in the settlement sector implies a re-thinking of the framework behind program design, policy, settlement funding, outcome measurement, and service delivery, which are currently using an individualistic approach. We urge IRCC to adopt five key practical recommendations for the implementation of a Family Approach in settlement services: 1. Inscribe the Family Approach as an explicit framework/method of the Needs Assessment and Referral program and the Information and Orientation program service agreements 2. Add a section on the family in the Needs Assessment and Referral iCARE reporting platform, with markers to identify family needs 3. Coordinate settlement needs at the family level by linking family members’ files in iCARE to reflect the inter-connectedness of needs and collect social capital measures 4. Enhance the recognition of family needs through the expansion of paracounselling support services, inclusive family programs, and social networking programs 5. Adopt an inclusive and flexible definition of family across settlement policy RCIS Working Paper No. 2018/1 The purpose of these recommendations is to empower immigrant families of all forms to acquire social supports for settlement and to provide both settlement organizations and IRCC with a family-level representation of newcomer settlement needs for future evidence-based policy-making. Incorporating a Family Approach would result in services that better address newcomers’ settlement realities by taking into account the family, in all its forms, and to develop prevention of domestic violence and intergenerational conflict.