Building the Evidence – Project Summaries – LINK –LINKing Refugee Youth and Families to Positive Social Supports

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Introduction

LINKing Refugee Youth and Families to Positive Social Supports (LINK) is an innovative program designed to prevent the involvement of refugee youth in criminal and gang-related activity.

The National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) defines innovative as prevention programs that test new approaches, theories and interventions with at-risk populations. They are based on a strong theoretical framework that links the proposed intervention to the risk factor(s), target population and desired outcomes. Innovative projects verify changes through limited research design and require causal confirmation using appropriate experimental techniques. These programs are recognized and encouraged with the caution that they be carefully evaluated.Footnote 1

Public Safety Canada's National Crime Prevention Strategy provided funding to implement the LINK pilot project in Winnipeg, Manitoba between September 2009 and March 2013. LINK was implemented by the Newcomers Employment and Education Development Services (N.E.E.D.S.) Inc. and assisted 229 youth.

Participants

LINK participants were referred to N.E.E.D.S. by the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, Winnipeg's largest settlement agency, through their “Welcome Place” temporary housing residence. Referrals were made within two weeks of arrival in Canada.

Youth referred to the program underwent an assessment of risk and those who participated in the program were between 12 and 18 years and were deemed at risk of involvement in gang activity due to factors such as:

Among the youth accepted into the LINK project, those assessed at the highest risk were identified and provided with additional components of intensive programming, as described below.

All the participants had Government Assisted Refugee (GAR) status, 47% had prior exposure to trauma and violence and, according to self-reports, none of them had a prior record of offending. The LINK program engaged both male and female youth, with 119 female and 110 male clients making up the total in the pilot project. Thirty-five of the participants fell in the highest risk category. Although GAR youth are accepted from various countries around the world, the majority of the LINK participants came from Congo, Bhutan, Somalia, Iraq, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan.

Key Elements of the Program

The LINK program has six components provided over one year. All participants received the first four components while those assessed at the highest risk received all the components and had their families involved.

  1. Education on Canadian Society – each client participated in 60 hours of workshops designed to provide information on Canada and to help reduce isolation and increase success at school, home and with peers.
  2. Mentorship – participants received 72 hours of one-on-one or group-based mentoring designed to introduce them to community resources, provide social and emotional support and supervision, and provide positive adult role models for youth.
  3. Educational Support to increase chances of success in school – Activities included LINK staff liaison with teachers and administrative school staff, in‑school visits to provide support, advice, and cultural information.
  4. Recreational Activities – designed to decrease isolation and loneliness and increase the development of positive peer relationships.
  5. Family mentorship – designed to provide opportunities to strengthen parent-child bonds and reduce the risk of developing intergenerational cultural conflict. LINK matched families of higher risk participants with Canadian families. The families met on a regular basis to attend workshops and activities.
  6. Referrals – Many of the refugee families participating in LINK had experienced severe trauma before arrival in Canada. Referrals to counseling and mental health services, cultural associations, housing, employment, and education supports were important aspects of the LINK project.

Staffing

Three full-time staff (one Coordinator, one Curriculum Facilitator, and one Mentorship Facilitator) and two part-time (20 hour/week) support employees implemented the LINK program.

Staff were required to have:

Fifty percent (50%) of LINK employees had non-Canadian (African) origins and, on average, were fluent in three languages.

Monthly training for staff was provided on issues such as legal boundaries for working with children and youth and strategies to help young newcomers integrate.

One hundred and eight (108) volunteers were involved in the LINK project and interpreters were hired when needed to help run the activities.

All mentors had to undergo screening through a Criminal Record Check as well as a Child Abuse Registry Check to ensure they were a proper fit for the program, and a Mentorship Training Manual was developed (33 training sessions took place, with an average of five mentors in each session).

Partnerships

LINK relied on many partners including:

Findings

Implementation Observations

Cost

The total cost of implementing the LINK project was $2,234,949 (53% funded by the NCPC).

The main in-kind contributions came from the Newcomers Education and Employment Development Services Inc. (N.E.E.D.S.), the Province of Manitoba, Winnipeg Harvest, and Momenta.

Additional financial contributions were provided by the Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba (CNCM).

Sustainability

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has fully adopted the LINK program and will be providing funding for at least the next two years.

Sponsoring Organization Contact Information

N.E.E.D.S. Inc.
251-A Notre Dame Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
R3B 1N8
Phone: 204-940-1260
Fax: 204-940-1272
needsinc@mts.net
http://www.needsinc.ca/about-us/index.html

End Notes

1 Promising and Model Crime Prevention Programs - Volume I, 2008

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