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Are Social Workers Ready to Serve Newcomers?. Miu Chung Yan, Ph.D. Associate Professor School of Social Work University of British Columbia Email: [email protected] Conceptualizing the Challenges of Newcomers. Structural Challenges. Category. Physical Challenges. Newcomer.

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are social workers ready to serve newcomers

Are Social Workers Ready to Serve Newcomers?

Miu Chung Yan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

School of Social Work

University of British Columbia

Email: [email protected]

conceptualizing the challenges of newcomers
Conceptualizing the Challenges of Newcomers

Structural Challenges


Physical Challenges


Health Challenges

Migration Process

Familial Challenges

challenges to newcomers
Challenges to Newcomers
  • Physical:
    • Climate changes – ways of living, health concern
    • Living arrangement – ghettolization, urbanization and suburbanization
    • Limited mobility – strange place, inadequate public transportation
  • Structural:
    • Economic challenges – employment and financial condition, transnational economic support (astronaut families)
    • Social challenges – housing and social networks
    • Cultural challenges – language, adaptation, ways of living, value conflicts
    • Discriminatory challenges – discriminations against their cultural, racial, newcomer status
challenges to newcomers1
Challenges to Newcomers
  • Health and mental health:
    • Mental health – anxiety and stress, homesick, posttraumatic problems, identity crisis (loss of status and adaptation to new roles)
    • Physical health – overworking, new diet
    • Lack of knowledge and access to health care service
  • Familial:
    • Marital relationship – change in traditional gender role
    • Intergenerational conflicts – cultural and language differences, challenges to traditional parenting practice
    • Transnational relationship – satellite kids, grandparent care, women’s burden
social work newcomers
Social Work & Newcomers
  • Where are social workers in newcomer settlement process?
  • What roles are SWr playing in newcomers’ settlement process?
social work newcomers 1
Social Work & Newcomers (1)
  • Areas where social work trained personnel play no key role.
    • Primary: prevent problems from happening, developmental programs – Settlement service, employment Counselling, community development
      • Orientation and adaptation to new ways of living
      • Job, employment, housing, education, language
      • Re-establish new social capitals (within and between groups)
      • Only a handful of mainly foreign trained social workers
social work newcomers 2
Social Work & Newcomers (2)
  • Major areas where social workers are playing critical roles:
    • Secondary: early stage intervention to change or control the causes – e.g., family and individual counselling services, recovery support
    • Tertiary: reducing the harms of the problems, crisis intervention – e.g., family crisis, mental health breakdown, child abuse cases, institutional services
bcasw study
  • Exploratory study, online survey conducted in April 2007
  • Research question: Are BCASW members ready to work with newcomers?
  • 4 sections:
    • Nature of service and organization,
    • knowledge of newcomers,
    • Training (Special Skill Set),
    • Demographic data.
  • Last for about four weeks with two emails sent to all members
  • Only members of BCASW (about 1150 people)
  • 218 people visited the survey (about 20% of total membership)
  • 195 answered up to Q#5 (skipping sections b to d)
  • 187 answered up to Q#13 (skipping section c and d)
  • 186 completed the whole survey (skipping section d)
demographic profile
Demographic Profile
  • N=186
  • 154 (F), 32 (M)
  • Age: Average 47 (median 45-49, mode 50-54)
  • 140 born in Canada
  • 22 Racial minority, 51 cultural minority (self identified)
  • BSW 61, MSW 95, Other 30 (in progress)
  • 84 Working in Health and Mental Health related services, 42 family and child protection, only 5 immigrant settlement related services
major findings
Major Findings
  • (Total 217 answers)
  • Most respondents are working in organizations (n=144, 66.3%) or programs (n=161, 74.2%) that do not have a specific mandate to serve newcomers.
  • In their current job, most respondents will not be notified (n=124, 57.2%) or are required to know (n=138, 63.6%) the immigrant status of their clients.
  • Only 25 (11.5%) respondents reported that issues of newcomers are routinely discussed in their organization’s meeting, which 56 reported occasionally, 75 (34.6%) seldom and 61 (28.1)not that they can recall.
imminent issues of newcomers and respondents perception of preparation
Imminent Issues of Newcomers and Respondents’ Perception of Preparation

(Up to three choices)

It seems that social workers are prepared to handle economic security and emotional/mental health issues.

The respondents perceived that they are not well prepared for policies related issues, cultural adaptation and language.

in service training
In-service Training
  • As their own professional growth, out of the 187 respondents, 65.78% reported, having taken courses on cultural sensitivity and 39.75% on antiracist practice. Only 18.18% took course specifically on how to work with newcomers.
  • How many of their employers did provide these kinds of training to them?
were respondents prepared at school to work with newcomers
Were Respondents Prepared at School to Work with Newcomers?
  • Out of the 187 respondents answered this question, only 26.74% (n=50) reported that they took course specifically on issues related to newcomers when they were in school.
  • Then how about their impression on newcomers related materials covered in different courses of the program that they had gone through?
skill set needed
Skill Set Needed
  • 76.47% and 73.8% respondents suggested that a general cross-cultural and a general anti-oppressive social work courses are necessary but not sufficient to equip them to serve newcomers.
  • The overwhelming reasons are:
      • Existing courses are too general and not practical
      • Requiring specific knowledge about newcomers:
        • specific policies and programs affecting their life chance
        • newcomers have specific needs, issues, challenges and problems due to their migration process and status
suggestions to social work education
Suggestions to Social Work Education
  • What needs to be included?
  • Canadian immigrant history
  • Policies and legislation relevant to newcomers
  • Programs, services, resources and information
  • Needs, challenges and difficulties of newcomers
  • Health and mental health issues related to migration
  • Creative approaches
  • Is course on working with newcomers needed?
    • BSW Level:
      • Required course: 55.08%
      • Selective course: 40.64%
    • MSW level:
      • Required course: 44.39%
      • Selective course: 49.20%
suggestions for bcasw
Suggestions for BCASW
  • What should be included?
    • Cross-cultural training: Cultural sensitivity, communication skills, assessment and intervention strategies
    • Anti-racism training
    • Policies, legislations, services, resources and programs
    • Pattern of immigration and settlement process and needs
    • Newcomers’ health and mental health issues: e.g. survivors of torture, issues related to grief and loss, PTSD
  • Are (BC) Social Workers ready? Not quite!
    • Lack of understanding of the migration process, policies, challenges and conditions of migrants, programs and services:
      • Impacting problem assessments
      • Limiting the advocacy role
      • Lack of resource to match needs and services
    • Minimal role in the primary level of helping:
      • Passive in helping newcomers to settle – crisis oriented form of helping
      • LSIC – newcomers don’t go to professional human and health service professionals
      • Therapeutization of the social work profession
    • Culturalization or racialization of newcomer’ problems
    • Insensitive to demographic and social change in social work curriculum and in-service training
  • Implications for newcomer settlement
    • Social service providers lack knowledge and sensitivity of newcomers’ settlement needs.
    • Lack of professional social work service to prevent and support newcomers to deal with personal and familial problems in the early settlement stage.
    • LSIC results – not seeking help from professionals.
    • Division of labour or fragmentation of social service in supporting newcomer settlement?
  • What can (should) be done?
    • Systematic (national) study on the readiness of human and health professions such as nurse, teachers, medical doctor and social workers.
    • For the social work profession:
      • Social work professional associations take an active role in newcomers issues
      • Developing appropriate curriculum for social work education
      • Social service organizations
        • Review intake policy and practice to sensitize workers with client’s newcomer status
        • Provide specific and relevant in-service training