What can after school programs do to support children who are experiencing fears related to the impacts of deportation? Many of our programs work with children and families who have deep fears about the changing immigration climate and increased deportations. Knowing what to do to support students and families on these issues can be hard for staff. They want to help but do not have expertise in this area. They also want to know what is ok to say and do in their role.
Here are some actions that can be taken in in partnership with our school districts to address these new immigration issues. In developing this list, I relied heavily on the resources of Teaching Tolerance.
1. Issue a program-wide statement in multiple languages indicating that the program is a safe and welcoming environment for all students.
2. Focus on building inclusive environments to reinforce the feeling of safety and security. This could range from establishing classroom ground rules to anti-bullying programs to creating time each day for students to express themselves in a safe environment.
3. Support staff in how to speak to students. Staff should let them know that they have a right to a safe educational environment. Staff can also let students know that it is ok to be confused or scared and that there are resources available to support them. It is, however, also important staff not make promises that cannot be kept in this uncertain environment.
4. Create a bilingual list of community organizations who provide resources, counseling, and support on immigration issues. This can then serve as a referral list for when issues arise.
5. Provide materials and community resources that support families in knowing their rights. Many communities also have organizations that are holding workshops on these issues that you can share with your families. Here are some additional sources of information on immigration rights as they pertain to schools:
6. Identify a bilingual staff member to be a resource for families around these issues.
7. Work with the school to provide counseling and support to students who have had a family member deported.
8. Provide support for staff and time for them to talk about these complex issues.
For everyone working in Expanded Learning programs, you are providing a safe and vital environment to all children and families. You help students feel safe, supported, and heard which is so vital now.
For breakfast I had toast with jalapeno cream cheese, a cutie, and coffee.