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Report: Amid Extraordinary Pressure on Refugee Resettlement Program, Time Is Ripe to Rethink Ways to Improve Refugee Integration
Press Release
Thursday, December 13, 2018

Report: Amid Extraordinary Pressure on Refugee Resettlement Program, Time Is Ripe to Rethink Ways to Improve Refugee Integration

WASHINGTON – The U.S. refugee resettlement program is facing an extraordinary set of pressures amid an unprecedented reduction in refugee admissions that has triggered drastic funding cuts for the non-governmental agencies that resettle refugees, hollowing out the network’s capacity. These challenges make this a particularly important time to consider how programs can most effectively serve the full spectrum of refugee integration needs.

Traditionally the resettlement system has concentrated on helping adult refugees find employment quickly, with this focus crowding out resources for their children or non-working family members. However, research and experience point to the benefits of adopting strategies that address the needs of the whole family, with strong and supportive families resulting in better outcomes for children.

Grounded in that knowledge, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) today released a new study on how human service agencies could strengthen refugee integration by embracing a two-generation approach.

The report, Promoting Refugee Integration in Challenging Times: The Potential of Two-Generation Strategies, draws on interviews with resettlement agency staff and with state refugee coordinators from the 10 states that have received the largest number of refugees in recent years. The researchers also drew on site visits to six states and a May 2018 MPI convening that brought together state refugee coordinators from a dozen states with experts in two-generation models, early care and education, school-age refugees and refugee employment services. The report also provides an overview of refugee admissions to the United States, the U.S. refugee resettlement process and background on the use of two-generation strategies in human services provision beyond the refugee realm.

Drawing upon successful programs that are occurring at state and local levels, the researchers identify promising practices for serving children in refugee families and their parents, for helping adult refugees get into better jobs over time and for meeting the broader integration needs of refugee families. Among these:

  • Contextualized English as a Second Language (ESL) classes with a focus on child care. The Colorado state resettlement office has contracted with a non-profit to provide contextualized ESL classes targeted toward family, friends and neighbors who provide child care in the refugee community, and to provide entry into career paths for refugees interested in teaching. The goal is to embed teaching, parenting and child care in ESL, and to train people who were teachers in their countries of origin to be paraprofessionals in the United States.
  • Case management to identify and serve the needs of whole families. In Utah, all refugee families receive two years of case management, which is substantially more than is the case in most states. Case management services allow providers to identify family needs and add on services as needed, such as assistance with transportation, access to medical care, food assistance or access to microloans or other help starting a business. Families receive regular assessments to gauge their progress along a range of outcome measures.
  • Vocational skills training for working refugees. Massachusetts has allocated about $800,000 to refugee service providers that offer vocational skills trainings leading to recognized credentials in local industries where demand for jobs is high. These employment providers offer trainings in health (medical interpretation and certified nurse assistant) in partnerships with community health organizations and training institutions; hospitality, including food service, in collaboration with hotels; and security, working with the Transportation Security Administration and private security trainers.

The report also offers a series of recommendations for ways the federal government, state leadership and state refugee coordinators, and voluntary agencies can implement and support two-generation approaches to refugee integration.

“Even in challenging times, there are steps that the federal government, states and voluntary resettlement organizations can take to advance successful refugee integration efforts,” said MPI Senior Fellow Mark Greenberg, the study’s lead co-author and a former acting assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/refugee-integration-two-generation-strategies.

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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 local, national and international levels.