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Supporting Refugee Children in Pennsylvania Public Schools

Wagner, Timothy M (2013) Supporting Refugee Children in Pennsylvania Public Schools. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study documented the lived experiences of professionals with significant background working with child refugees, in an attempt to understand how practitioners view the information, resources, and other supports required to assure child refugees’ successful physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. An extensive review of the published research on child refugees in the Unitd States described specific international treaties, federal statutes, and state codes, addressed developmental disruptions as refugee children experience them, and explored the school experience of specific refugee cultural groups, yet revealed few reports of practitioners’ perspectives.

Accordingly, this investigation sought the views of ten school and community professionals who engage with child refugees in a medium-sized, suburban school district to determine 1) What advice would they offer to those who will serve refugee children in public schools? 2) How useful do they find background information on legal mandates and the refugee child’s experience prior to resettlement, and when is this information most beneficial? 3) How do they experience a child refugee’s developmental disruptions, and how do they prioritize work on these disruptions?

A one hour semi-structured interview addressed knowledge, skills, and practices that professionals found to be successful when working with a refugee population, along with barriers that they encountered. A three-part, twenty-six item follow-up survey asked participants to provide background information on their experiences, rate their knowledge of federal and state legal mandates and refugee cultural experiences (e.g., home country context, refugee camp conditions), and identify any developmental disruptions a refugee child presented in their setting.

Participants reported successes and barriers that were largely role specific. Several themes, however, arose across all interviews. These themes included: 1) addressing students’ language needs, 2) engaging community resources, 3) addressing school needs related to cultural context education, 4) building relational trust, 5) identifying and addressing bullying, and 6) collaborating in pursuit of common professional goals. In addition, interviewees identified motivation and transformation as personal experiences in their work with child refugees.

Findings lead to three implications, including development of comprehensive and specific state policy, recommendations for professional standards of practice, and revision to pre-service teacher and school leader curricula.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wagner, Timothy
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKerr, Mary Margaretmmkerr@pitt.eduMMKERR
Committee MemberTrovato, Charlenetrovato@pitt.eduTROVATO
Committee MemberVanderVen, Karenkvander@pitt.eduKVANDER
Committee MemberVanShura, Mary
Date: 12 September 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 July 2013
Approval Date: 12 September 2013
Submission Date: 7 August 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 220
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: child refugee child development policy public education
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2013 18:35
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:14


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