Acculturation in Context: Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, Catholic Charities

By | September 3, 2019


As a new reception and placement agency
that is also placing and helping refugees resettle in a new area there
have been a lot of lessons learned. There are things that we supposed would happen
and there were other things that didn’t quite happen the way that they
should. When we’ve been speaking all through this morning and into this
afternoon we’ve been talking an awful lot about the the social, the cultural,
the emotional, the mental aspects of resettlement. In so many ways a reception
and placement agency is involved with some of the very physical aspects
of resettlement — the things that has to go right in order for some of the other
things to go right as well. And we know that it is extremely difficult for
someone to begin the healing hope process and moving on in their journey
of thriving in a new culture if they don’t have some of the very basic
physical things in place. It’s like saying to someone, you can eat just
as soon as you learn how to fish. Somehow or another in the meantime
somebody has to give a person a fish so they can actually think and get down to
the business of actually healing and going on. For us one of the challenges in
this area has been in fact housing. There are a lot of requirements around housing.
Sometimes it’s a little interesting when you look at all the rules and
regulations that are around actually supplying housing for, whether it be
refugees and immigrants or anyone in specific, the rules and regulations
around that make it a very, very difficult thing to actually acquire.
Number one: we’re in an area where there isn’t an awful lot of affordable housing.
Number two: the rents in this greater Northampton area are
very, very high. Number three: some of the families come with multiple children. It
is also something that needs to be noted that children under the age of 6, your
housing must be lead-free. Many of the homes that were built before 1978 are
not lead-free and you must have lead-free certification, so those are
some of the challenges. And yet, we know that moving them into that permanent
place is a really important idea of, okay, I’ve established a new home, I’ve got a
place where I can put my permanent belongings, I’m not going from one place
to another, I don’t feel like I’m still a refugee in my new home. So our goal
always is to move the families into permanent housing in the most rapid way
that we can. That can take anywhere from two weeks to four weeks. In a couple of
cases it took actually, well, one place, in one case it took a little longer. That
is something that will be an ongoing challenge. I think it’s a challenge that
not only we face, but the Department of State faces as well as many of the other
resettlement agencies, the lack of affordable housing throughout, let’s say,
Massachusetts or other parts of the country really has made it very
difficult, because of the lack of resources that the Department of State
actually puts into the resettlement of refugees,
it makes. um. it makes it very difficult to the extent that some of our refugee
resettlement places have reduced their numbers and are closed, saying that we
simply cannot resettle in this area or that area, and then refugee
families have to be moved to other parts of not only the state but other parts of
the United States as well, so that is certainly one of the things that we look
to overcome as quickly as possible so that families can get on with their
healing and journey towards hope. Healthcare, we’re very fortunate actually
there is the Caring Health Center in Springfield, which is the place where all
refugee families that are incoming receive their initial health care
services. The Health Care Center in Springfield is under contract actually
to the Department of State through ORI to provide those medical checks. When
refugee families come to the United States they come with a rather
comprehensive medical report. Very, very few times do we have refugees that come
in without some kind of physical issue that they are facing, and many do come
with positive tuberculosis tests, many do come with other issues that you would
imagine might come from being in circumstances where you do not get the
right kind of nutrition, you’ve been under a great deal of stress. So you see
heart conditions, you see diabetes, you see high blood pressure and other aspects
that have to be actually remediated once they arrive here. We also see a lot of
back and a spinal injuries or leg injuries. the Caring Health Center does provide the very
first of those health checks. From there they have the option of staying
with the Caring Health Center or in our case what we
tried to do is bring the families into contact with local health care providers.
And we’ve been very fortunate in being able to do so. The health care providers
both the from Baystate as well as from Cooley Dickinson have been very
forthcoming in helping us to find primary care physicians that really suit
the needs of the family. Again, being very careful that we ask the family what kind
of physician they want, even the genders of the physicians and how comfortable
they feel actually going to those physicians for the very first time. Do
they want accompaniment? What has their been their experience with working
with healthcare providers in their own context? So from that point of view,
we’ve really got quite a lot that actually Northampton offers us. And we
have really not found actually at this point any issues really developing with
the provision of health care. I think as we go along more will be discussed about
mental health care and/or psychosocial adjustment and perhaps therapy, but, again,
we are doing that slowly because we need to be aware of what the family’s needs
really are, how the families and their own cultures view psychological
intervention, whether the use of therapists is something that is looked
upon as helpful or harmful or perhaps embarrassing or somehow something that
is taboo in their own culture. So we are not moving quickly with that. We watch.
We’re available. We’re aware, and if people think they see anything
that may be untoward, we also have access to the Mental Health Group or
what is called the psychosocial working group,
who’s been very very forthcoming in simply giving us good advice and giving
good advice to the circles of care and helping them be better
observers, better listeners and better advocates in these situations.

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