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Examination of Early Childhood Education & Care Programs for Children in Refugee & Asylum-Seeker Families Finds ‘Extraordinarily Weak’ Responses in Europe, North America
Press Release
Thursday, April 12, 2018

Examination of Early Childhood Education & Care Programs for Children in Refugee & Asylum-Seeker Families Finds ‘Extraordinarily Weak’ Responses in Europe, North America

WASHINGTON — With large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Europe and North America in recent years, many of the youngest arrivals have experienced trauma and stress that pose serious risks to their development. Early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs provide an important means by which receiving countries can mitigate many of the risks these young children face, thereby supporting their healthy development and boosting their longer-term education trajectories and integration success.

To better understand the challenges and successes major host countries in Europe and North America experience in providing high-quality ECEC services to the young children of refugees and asylum seekers, the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy coordinated fieldwork in nine countries to examine current policies and practices. The findings are included in a new report issued today, Responding to the ECEC Needs of Children of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Europe and North America.

The report encompasses fieldwork conducted in Belgium, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. It documents that many of the countries studied share similar experiences, including a significant lack in capacity to reach and effectively serve young asylum-seeker and refugee children through early childhood programs, both during initial reception and later phases in their integration process. And while the importance of trauma-informed care was recognized across countries and response systems, the training and resources necessary to provide it were “almost universally lacking,” the report finds.

“Generally speaking, country-wide responses to the early childhood education and care needs of young refugee and asylum-seeker children have been extraordinarily weak, despite the legal obligation in most countries to serve this population,” said Margie McHugh, director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “Germany is a notable exception, where the national government has invested hundreds of millions of euros to expand linguistically and culturally competent ECEC programs that are able to effectively meet the needs of young refugee children and their parents.”

The report identifies a range of promising practices and opportunities to improve policy, including the emergence of successful approaches in Sweden and Germany to support the provision of ECEC services to these children. Sweden, for example, has demonstrated better outcomes for newcomer children when they can learn alongside native-born children in mixed classrooms. It also provides system-wide support for home language development.

“High-quality ECEC services that support young refugee children and their parents represent an important and often overlooked avenue for host countries to invest in the future success of these families as part of a thoughtful integration strategy,” said report co-author Maki Park, MPI senior policy analyst for early education and care.

Research for the report was supported by the Transatlantic Forum on Inclusive Early Years (TFIEY), a consortium of European and U.S. foundations convened by the King Baudouin Foundation. Members include the Bertelsmann Stiftung, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Aga Khan Foundation, Jacobs Foundation, Learning for Well-Being Foundation, Bernard van Leer Foundation, Compagnia di San Paolo, Open Society Foundations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/responding-ecec-needs-children-refugees-asylum-seekers-europe-north-america.

For more on TFIEY and earlier research commissioned by the forum, visit: www.europe-kbf.eu/en/projects/early-childhood/transatlantic-forum-on-inclusive-early-years.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy is a crossroads for elected officials, researchers, state and local agency managers, grassroots leaders, local service providers and others who seek to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities today’s high rates of immigration create in local communities.