Results from Year Two of the RHH Pilot
Reviving Hope and Home (RHH) is a newcomer innovation designed by the Mothers Matter Centre for high-risk government-assisted refugee (GAR) mothers. With three-year funding provided by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), we have been able to work with a program service provider in Vancouver, Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISS of BC), to deliver this program to GAR mothers in the Lower Mainland.
What was the need for the RHH program?
RHH was designed to build on evidenced-based Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) model. After the first year of working with Syrian refugees, we recognized HIPPY was an effective resettlement tool, but required some modifications if we were to meet the complex and critical needs of refugee families. In designing RHH, we attempted to address every barrier to participation that was identified by home visitors. Specifically, the home visitors, who were frequently viewed by families as the lifeline to Canadian society, required more support and flexibility for program delivery. We maintained the key elements of the HIPPY Model. Modifications included the addition of a community outreach worker, additional time for home visits, year-round programming, resources for translation, transportation etc.
What barriers does RHH program address?
In 2017, the Mothers Matter Centre (MMC) carried out research with GAR mothers. It showed that all experienced significant barriers to settlement and integration into broader Canadian society. Given the limited support within Canada, socially or financially, all GARs were disadvantaged, and GAR women more so than others.
Generally, GAR women lacked a social circle that could refer them to necessary services and, when these services were provided outside the home, barriers to participation were further compounded by the challenges of childcare and transportation.
GAR women seeking employment often found that their education or qualifications were not transferable to the Canadian labour market and, combined with low language proficiency, it presented a challenge for GAR women looking for economic security. Others have low first language literacy. There are limited services for GAR women to improve language and skills amidst competing demands of employment, parenting, and household duties.
Service Delivery Improvement (SDI) Priorities
This program targets supports GAR mothers in language acquisition, employment, newcomer wellbeing and programming to support vulnerable clients, and research and analysis to drive innovation and to understand the user experience.
An informal goal is that GAR Mothers and their children will increase English language skills through participation in HIPPY and other curriculum. Home Visitors (HVs) enhance English language skills through the Home Visitor Pre-Employment Program. The program training requires HVs to practice their oral, written and reading skills. The HVs described a process of teaching English language four letters at a time during each home visit. Week by week, word by word, the mothers’ confidence to learn English improved.
The HIPPY Program offers a three-year Home Visitor work-learn training to some of the graduates of the program. RHH provided three vulnerable refugee mothers with full time employment and professional development training. The long-term benefits are that the home visitors acquire knowledge, skills and connections to enter the Canadian work environment.
The RHH project successfully developed a flexible and responsive adaptation of the HIPPY model that builds on the strength and resilience of Refugee Mothers by ensuring the dignity of each. Modifications include year-round programming, a newly developed HIPPY summer program, a flexible delivery model, a continuum of settlement services guided by an outreach worker, and parenting and early learning supports on a year-round basis. A unique aspect of the project is a Resource Bank that provides ancillary resources (e.g., translation and transportation).
The project includes a performance management system and an evaluation and research component to assist in making program adjustments to better meet the needs of mothers. A German-Canadian Research Project will provide evidence on the similarities and differences between the issues confronted by refugees in Germany and Canada and similarly the impact of HIPPY. Simon Fraser University’s external evaluation will contribute to a set of lessons learned and recommendations for eliminating systemic barriers and innovating settlement services and programs for high risk refugee mothers and their families. The findings will be shared in a conference in Spring 2020.
How Do RHH Participants Benefit?
The MMC and ISS of BC continually test the feasibility of this social innovation to ensure the wellbeing, dignity, and social connections of high-risk, vulnerable GAR mothers.
Beneficiaries: High-risk, displaced GAR mothers with low literacy and health conditions including PTSD; past program participants who experience employment barriers who are trained as HVs; and the service provider organization (SPO) with national standards and program structure to meet the needs of vulnerable GARs.
Outcomes include: GAR mothers participate in social networks, children’s schools, civic society and make informed decisions about their lives; HVs are employed in the Canadian labour market and trained to transition to higher education.
What is a Key Lesson Learned from this Pilot?
The flexibility of the program to tailor support according to family needs was flagged as a key factor leading to success in the RHH project. The clients and the staff appreciated that each family could move within the program and navigate the program and other support available at their own pace – which enables successful and sustainable network/connection building enabling GAR mothers to settle better into Canadian society and feel like they belong in their communities.
The project staff has been deeply appreciative of the multiple innovative approaches implemented within RHH during the reporting period. This includes the Supporting Mothers And Raising Toddlers (SMART) program and rolling out the Rumie tablet for expediting settlement through using digital means for mothers.
We have observed that RHH provides GAR mothers support according to their needs which may be extensive at first based on their vulnerability and conditions however due to the provision of this support, the families get a head start in their settlement process. It enables them to fight their fears, inhibit any pre-conceived notions they may have and explore their community and society at large one step at a time.
What Are Some Key Successes?
In the context of extremely vulnerable, isolated and low income families who mostly come with significant emotional baggage, the definition of ‘important’ result needs to be contextualized. In our experience, supporting such families (mothers) feel confident and empowered to take very small steps count as huge successes. This is because once they take their time in building confidence, coming to terms with realities and understanding how life in Canada works they then seamlessly move from one step to another towards settlement.
Some key successes are:
1. Various mothers in RHH learnt how to navigate the transit system and are now confident in taking buses, visiting their child’s school or going for grocery themselves
2. Over 51% of mothers felt not confident at all in teaching their children when RHH began. The year one baseline shows this number to have been reduced to less than 4%. 6% mothers felt somewhat confident in teaching their child at baseline however year 1 results show that almost 43% mothers are now somewhat confident in teaching their child.
3. Over 48% of the mothers felt like they did not belong when RHH baseline was undertaken. After 1 year of programming this number has been reduced to 17.8%. Similarly, at baseline 3% mothers felt like they belonged in their communities. Year 1 baseline shows that now 32% mothers feel like they belong.
What Has Been the Biggest Challenge?
They key challenge in the project is the unmet needs of very vulnerable GAR families. These needs are sometimes so major, for example access to adequate affordable housing or medical services like medical interpretation or access to mental health support services, that it impacts the overall well being of the family. Access to affordable housing has been flagged as a major need across RHH families and staff.
International Collaboration Opportunities
Germany’s experience with refugees was studied in the development of the project and a German-Canadian research project, learning exchange and conference were integrated into the project in a fashion that allowed us to learn from their experience and consider how some of the lessons learned might apply in a Canadian context.
Is There an Opportunity to Scale this Project?
By analyzing over one year of programming, experiential learning, empirical data, and outcome level change indicators we are confident that RHH can and should be scaled on a national level. RHH is a successful program which needs an anchor program to which families graduating for RHH will transition into so that they still have some level of support. We will continue to document the model and its impact in detail to advocate for its scalability across the country and even in other countries responding to refugee settlement. We will continue to present RHH at diverse public fora so organizations get to know about the work. We will also keep engaging with IRCC to understand how successful SDIs were envisioned to be scaled.
We will work on advocacy materials and empirical data over the course of year 2 of programming, however the availability of resources presently seems like the only concern for scaling up.