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Mothers Matter Centre / Events  / Immigration Welcome Week – Mothers Matter Centre celebrates touching 45,000 lives through the HIPPY program

Immigration Welcome Week – Mothers Matter Centre celebrates touching 45,000 lives through the HIPPY program

By: Yusra Qadir

Canada welcomed over 400,000 immigrants last year. The country aims to welcome 430,000 more this year according to the Canadian government’s Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024. Over the next three years, 18% of new permanent residents will be refugees and humanitarian class immigrants, while economic class immigration will comprise 57% of Canada’s annual immigration target and 25% will come through family class sponsorship. These newcomers grow Canada’s labour force, support economic growth, and add value to Canadian culture and society. However, they need support initially as they adapt and resettle. They come from diverse contexts and sometimes carry unique ‘baggage’ with them.

Many refugees arrive with long histories of living in displacement and insecurity. They have lost parental agency and face multiple barriers in their settlement process. They arrive to a reality,  which is not theirs – with the challenge of restarting life from scratch. Many economic immigrants, at least the primary applicants come with confidence in their education, skills and hopes to find gainful employment – and the dream to prosper in Canada. For many the situation of the job market and employer’s expectations for ‘Canadian Experience” is a harsh reality check. Their spouses and their settlement journeys are another story altogether.

We know, from experience of serving newcomers to Canada for 22 years that women, especially mothers experience settlement differently. For them the challenges are exacerbated as they find themselves unaware, unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with what comes their way. Families struggle with re-settlement issues as they navigate post-traumatic stress, language barriers, isolation, and often low first-language literacy. If Canada is unprepared to help them settle, they will slip through the cracks.

The Mothers Matter Centre supports refugees and newcomers to settle in their communities, enhance parental agency and feel confident in their new lives – as citizens, and as parents ready to support their children lead the best possible life in Canada.

With IRCC’s generous support and through our service delivery partners, MMC offers the HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) program – which is an evidence-based program rooted in the mother to mother approach. HIPPY works with families in the home to support parents, primarily mothers, in their critical role as their child’s first and most important teacher. HIPPY strengthens families and communities by empowering mothers to prepare their children for success in school.

At the core of the HIPPY program is a structured home visit that:

– Delivers a curriculum based on the needs of children to become school-ready;

– Leverages role-play as an important method of teaching the skills needed to implement the child-centred curriculum; and

– Features a peer Home Visitor system that enables mothers, who may be hard to reach because of social isolation, poverty, language, or other cultural issues, to feel comfortable participating in the program.

The HIPPY program employs moms, often graduates of the program, as Home Visitors who then work with newcomer and refugee mothers in their most important role – as their child’s first and best teacher. When paired with a Home Visitor, mothers develop their skills and gain confidence and self-esteem. The program builds bridges to the larger community, ending isolation and helping mothers take steps to prepare their kids for success in school.  Home Visitors receive weekly training, employment experience, and career mentoring that supports them in their transition to other work or higher education.

The HIPPY program’s holistic approach benefits home visitors, mothers, and their families.

Children in the HIPPY program show improved school readiness, school performance, English skills, reading abilities, school behaviour, self-esteem and self-confidence.

Mothers in the HIPPY program say they have better relationships with their kids and increased self-confidence. They feel less isolated, have the confidence to be more actively involved in their children’s schools, spend more time with their children to help them learn, and have expanded their social networks. Mothers are able to access pre-existing services to meet the needs of their families.

HIPPY Home Visitors often get their first Canadian job experience through HIPPY, after facing multiple employment barriers. Home Visitors receive training, employment skills, and transition support to graduate to other jobs and higher education, following their three-year, work-to-learn position. Once isolated themselves, Home Visitors are now highly-employable who contribute to the economic well-being of their families and communities.

We hope to continue serving the immigrants coming to Canada, and expand in the coming years, to provide more holistic services to more newcomers who bring diversity and prosperity to Canada by calling it their home.

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