CNC in Action: An International Perspective

There are over fifty million refugees and it is estimated that over half of these are children. As the world tries to determine how to serve these children, some countries are taking the lead and making significant contributions.

Migration Policy Institute–a think tank that studies and evaluates migration and refugees–was looking to identify international best practices in caring for newcomer children. During their research of child care models, they contacted CMAS to learn more about CNC. Shortly thereafter, CMAS was invited to participate and present a poster session at the Expanding Effective ECEC Services for Young Refugee Children Conference. International practitioners, philanthropists, policymakers, experts and other stakeholders in the field attended the event, held on September 11 and 12, 2018 in Berlin. Susan Hoo, Manager at CMAS, travelled to Germany to offer a Canadian perspective on serving newcomer children.

“It was an honour to be invited and to see the respect for what Canada is doing–not just with refugees, but with all immigrant services,” says Susan.

The conference was a chance to connect and share learning about services for newcomer children around world. Many European countries are experiencing a high number of refugee arrivals, and are struggling to develop an effective plan for settling them. Often, efforts are hindered by fear and political differences that exist in the host country. Most discussions, however, focus on supporting the adult refugees. This symposium put the spotlight on how best to serve refugee children.

To put the issue into perspective, it is important to look at the statistics. For example, out of over three million refugees in Turkey, 425, 000 are between the ages of 0 and 4. These children have experienced significant upheaval. For many, there is also trauma, food insecurity, and family separations. When they arrive in host countries, they carry with them the emotional horrors they previously faced– and are subject to numerous new barriers to settlement.

The conference centred on the belief that well-designed ECE services can play a key role in settling young refugee children. Programs can help these children deal with the effects of stress or trauma they may have experienced, and support their healthy physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development. The meeting’s presentations and discussions ranged from current solutions to possibilities for programs and policies at local and national levels.

For its part, Germany, which has received over 800 000 refugees, is examining efforts to settle them. Kitas–their daycare facilities–are welcoming many of the children. With sessions and discussions looking at their work with the younger children, Susan had the opportunity to tour a kita in Berlin. Staff spoke about their experiences of working with refugee and asylum seeking families.

“The warmth of the staff was evident,” recalls Susan. “Their strong will and desire to settle the children was inspiring.”

In turn, conference delegates were very impressed with our CNC efforts in Canada. In particular, they noted the number of resources available for both childcare programs and parents in different languages, like the “New In Canada” health and safety series. Many conference-goers also knew about the Syrian refugee guide.

“It was a great opportunity to hear the struggles of other countries and share practices that are working for our programs,” explains Susan “It was also a reminder that, we in Canada have some progressive practices with a pretty mature process for supporting our newcomer children.”

Across the world we still have a long way to go in building quality supports for refugee children, but it’s good to see that there are some promising practices and committed professionals who are sharing ideas and research. More than that, they are working towards improving the future for many families.