- Date and Time: Friday, 23.04.2021, 1 hour duration, 19:00 to 20:00 CET hour.
- Place: Online, via Zoom platform due to the Covid restriction.
- Participants: 4 participants are involved (in Google Drive have one document with the general information of each one participant named “NLBChildren Focus Group”, and have also the “Participants List”, the screenshots, and the records of the focus group meeting).
The procedure of the NLBChildren project Focus Group (IO1)
The Focus Group, conducted by Previform.lda, the Portuguese partner, was conducted like a closed discussion group.
At the beginning of the meeting/focus group discussion, the moderator (one person of Previform staff) started with a short oral presentation about the Erasmus+ projects, and after made a detailed introduction of the No Left Behind Children project, more concretely about its foreseen activities and the objectives of realized the Focus Group.
Then, each of the participants introduced themselves, their professional proﬁle, and mentioned their previous experiences on the discussion theme in the focus group. The participants were glad and motivated to get involved in the focus group, and at the same time, in the NLBChildren project. They considered that it is a great opportunity to learn, to acquire experiences, to expand their knowledge, establishing contacts and possible partnerships.
During the Focus Group, with the useful help of the guide questions (“Focus Group Grid” file) provided by the NLBChildren project Coordinator, the moderator collected all personal and professional opinions, experiences, and perspectives of the participants about the theme of discussion. These opinions will be a starting point for the structuring and implementation of some of the activities planned during the NLBChildren project.
This report is a description of the opinions/answers, main points of discussion, and contents of the interventions of all Focus Group participants. In addition, the main ideas and conclusions achieved during the event are presented in this report.
Questions answered during the Focus Group
- Question 1. What does it mean to you to be a parental educator/to work with migrants?
In the opinion of the participants of the Portuguese Focal Group to be a parental educator/to work with migrants means:
- To have a great responsibility and challenge, in the sense that in spite of having knowledge about the methodologies and techniques necessary for this work, there is always the need to know and empathize with their reality, the diversity and uniqueness of each parental subject, circumscribed in your culture;
- To evaluate and reflect on a set of aspects central to child/youth development, namely the adjustment to the new reality experienced in a foreign country. Provide parents with knowledge that allows more parental skills for the good performance of the parental role;
- To help in translation services, help navigate the education system, educate school personnel about cultural practices and beliefs, help parents advocate for their children’s needs, and also provide other practical assistance, such as locating language classes or employment opportunities;
- To have the opportunity to help parents obtain the education and skills needed to raise physically, psychologically, and emotionally healthy children that they leave behind in order to obtain better living conditions.
- Question 2. What are the characteristics of your relation with the migrant parents (imigrants, emigrants or transmigrants*)?
(*migrants that engage in a circular migration – going back and forth between the destination country and the home country)
In Portugal, only in large cities, there are significant percentages of migrant parents with abandoned children. Fortunately, at a local/regional level, here in Ponte de Lima, there are no recorded cases of this type of situation. The few cases of migrant parents that exist in Ponte de Lima have complete families (they traveled with their children).
However, the Portuguese Focal Group can describe some migrant parents characteristics like as:
- Most migrants are males and they are predominantly young adults. In spite of nowadays, the migration of females and children is increasing;
- They better educated than the general rural population but less so than their urban counterparts, and economic motives predominate their decision to move, although this is tempered by a series of other factors;
- They have a curiosity posture, in the sense of wanting to know more about the social paper of the migrant fathers in their hosted country. This characteristic facilitates the establishment of a relationship of trust, taking into account the non-judgment based on the culture/reality of the host country, in your case in Portugal;
- The combined posture between curiosity and trust facilitates the identification of the migrant father with the parental educator and allows reflection on the best interest of the child.
So in overall, the Portuguese Focal Group characteristics in relation to the migrant parents can be described in way of proximity, availability, ease of access, information, understanding, and empathy.
- Question 3. What are the main topics that parents feel the need to talk about? What are the main topics of concern?
First, it is important to inform the parents about children’s rights, taking into account the children’s rights convention, specifically focusing on the right to the family and, if impossible, contact with parents. At the same time, it is relevant also to support parents to understand the change in children’s behavior, and support them in their ability to understand and appreciate the child positively, allowing their children to grow up healthy and happy in every possible ways.
Thus, taking into account the experience of the participants of the Portuguese Focal Group, the main topics of concern from the parents, and consequently, about they feel the need to talk about are, like all parents issues related to:
- Living conditions and well-being;
- Access to services;
- Rights and Duties;
- Adjusted behaviors;
- Social adaptation and integration;
- Adjusted behaviors.
- Question 4. What is the role of the parental educator in supporting/facilitating the relationship between migrant parents and the left behind children?
In the opinion of the participants of the Portuguese Focal Group the role of the parental educator in supporting/facilitating the relationship between migrant parents and the left-behind children is:
- Help to identify strategies that allow the family to function well and overcome anguish and difficulties in the face of the element left behind;
- Help to identify strategies that allow thinking about welcoming the element left behind;
- Promote acculturation;
- Facilitate contact and communication with parents, because it is important to keep the focus on education and family and social monitoring and to integrate into the new culture;
- Facilitate communication mechanisms, and explore how it is impossible not to communicate, taking into account the axioms of communication and what strategies can be carried out so that the distance does not mean abandonment;
- Represent a crucial part in supporting/facilitating the relationship between migrant parents and the left-behind children, because they make some sort of bridging between them, so both do not feel abandoned, and unsupported.
- Question 5. Which are the most significant changes that occur after parents work with parental educators? Which are the challenges the parental educators face in their relation with migrant parents?
The parental educators’ involvement affects children’s achievement because these interactions affect their motivation, their sense of competence, and the belief that they have control over their success in school. These behaviors, generally, lead to a child’s educational success. Higher levels of education are linked to overall better quality of life, including fewer behavioral and physical health problems, lower unemployment rates, and lower rates of incarceration.
So, the most significant changes that occur after parents work with parental educators are:
- The perception of the support network. The great challenge is – in order to be a support – to be able to establish a relationship, taking into account that there may be postures on the part of the parents that are more challenging, less open, that may be related to past experiences and even trauma;
- The engagement and the commitment they achieve, for example in relation to their “active” involvement in their children’s education;
- The migrants highly valued the achievement of knowledge for their children because parents may not have had that same opportunity in their native country, and they want them to have it;
- Increase the trust in the health and education system, and the referral to support structures.
- Question 6. Are there follow-up sessions of educators with parents, to check what new methods of relationship discovered in the program have kept in the long run?
All Portuguese participants have the same opinion about the positive and relevant importance of the existence of the follow-up sessions of educators with parents, in order to check what new methods of relationship discovered in the possible programs that, probably, will be kept for a long run.
They think that have a need for proximity monitoring in these programs, but they think also, that this option only makes sense if, in addition to evaluating the results of the application of the programs, is evaluated too, the longitudinal impact of that application.
- Question 7. In your opinion, what type of activities should migrant parents and left behind children engage in during separation?
In a general opinion, the Focus Group participants think that the type of activities migrant parents and left behind children should engage in during separation must be done in an educative way for both parts may involve the understanding of child development and of the child-rearing practices that can contribute to enhancing their development, physically and emotionally.
Another fundamental aspect is, both parents and children, try to maintain permanent contact digitally way because the communication between them is crucial to the maintenance of the care, affection bonds, and parental relationships. This communication can be done through digital platforms, or even the most analog: letters with some frequency.
The possibility of establishing contacts with community entities where the children are insert and/or attend (host institution, school, health, etc.) is also, an important way to engage the parents with their children.
- Question 8. How can technology be used at the benefit of the relationship between the migrant parent and the left behind child? Do you have suggestions?
Our participants think that technology can be one of the most beneficial points for the relationship between the migrant parents and the left-behind children.
So, the uses of digital tools can be useful to maintain that contact, since for platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and/or for social networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. Another option beyond the video calls can be the contact using the telephone. Is sure that the close contacts between them strengthen their relationship, whether by phone or by the internet because it is very important that children, away from their parents, are able to see their parents regularly so that there is no perception of abandonment.
- Question 9. What kind of training do you think would help parental educators to perform better in their activities?
Portuguese participants think that the kind of training that would help parental educators to perform better in their activities can be:
- Training courses on the use of digital technologies;
- Training in the ability to interpret positive and negative emotions in children (orally and visually);
- Training of positive response/communication: e.g., self-messages and active listening;
- Training in the soft skills for knowing the emotional feelings separation can bring to the left-behind children with the aim to learn how to identify and fight against these emotions.
- Question 10. Which authorities are active in regulating and supporting the relationship between migrant parents and left behind children? Are they efficient? Can their engagement be enhanced/improved?
Our participants remembered some examples of authorities/institutions that are active in regulating and supporting the relationship between migrant parents and left-behind children, like as:
- High Commissioners for Migration;
- House for Refugee Children (CACR);
- “A Criança” Space;
- SOS Children’s Villages in Portugal;
- Home for Children and Youth (“Lar de Infância e Juventude”);
- Portuguese Association for the Support of Abandoned Children (APACA);
- House of Kid (“Casa da Criança”);
- Children and Youth Protection Commissions (CPCJ);
these institutions unfortunately have few resources. In this way, in addition to the need to broaden the response, it also makes sense to promote the allocation of interpreters for this purpose, to facilitate their communication;
- Institutions in individual roles such as Psychologists, Parental Educators, Teachers, Social Workers, etc.;
sometimes they are efficient and some they aren’t, maybe because of the numerous Laws, they have to face daily.
- Question 11. Which NGOs/private entities are active in supporting the relationship between migrant parents and left behind children? Are their interventions efficient? Can their engagement be enhanced/improved?
Some examples, given by our Portuguese partners, about the NGOs/private entities are active in regulating and supporting the relationship between migrant parents and left-behind children are:
- High Commissioner for Migration;
- High Commissioner for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities;
taking into account their responses in the roles provided by them, the intervention promoted is effective, however, not efficient, as it is not a broad response that can reach all identified cases. It seems important to broaden the response;
they develop an enormous intervention in supporting migrant parents and left-behind children but still not effective, it still not enough to help all of them.
Main Ideas and Conclusions
In a general view, it is a reality that, both nationally and internationally, great efforts have been made in the context of the generalization of positive parenting. However, specifically in Portugal, it is necessary to continue to reinforce the idea of the relevance of national and international coordination, with emphasis on the urgency of the dissemination of good practices (which may include Parental Training) and greater knowledge on guidelines regarding the practice of positive parenting. In order to create the best possible conditions for positive parenting, it is important to warn of the need for all professionals working with children and young people to receive training and guidance on how to put positive parenting into practice.
Overall, more concretely about the Focus Group, the participants were very participative; they showed great interest and motivation on the topic under discussion. The event occurred in a very fruitful and productive way, where the participants were encouraged to interact among themselves and interconnect their contributions to those of others, which guaranteed a spontaneous, cohesive, and very interesting prosecution of the discourse. Thus, the Focus Group was a very productive occasion for reﬂection, exchange knowledge and experiences, and for laying the structuring and give lancing to the most correct approach to the NLBChildren project activities.