Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Conflict in Refugee Resettlement

One time, perhaps unwisely, I criticized a fellow job developer from a different agency for what I felt was a demeaning and condescending attitude toward recent immigrant refugees. I felt that she often treated her clients like children and did not give them the proper respect owed to individuals who have overcome extremely difficult circumstances and who are remarkably capable and intelligent. Essentially, I believed that this person hindered her clients ability to develop and learn job search skills by completing tasks for them which they were perfectly capable of doing themselves.

How can our clients learn job search skills if we don't allow them to be involved in their own job search process?

The particular instantation of this problem was that this person was telling her clients not to attempt to complete their new hire paperwork. Instead she shouted to them that they were to wait for her to do it for them. Many of these clients were perfectly capable of completing the paperwork - either by themselves or with moderate assistance.
I feel the best way to learn is by doing. Therefore, even when clients ask me to fill out paperwork for them I will often turn them down and say, "I won't do it for you, but I'll sit here and help you fill it out yourself." I bring this same philosophy to applications. I expect clients to fill out applications by themselves. Not only does this teach my clients job search skills, but it also demonstrates to employers that my clients are capable of completely an application independently.

For this reason my approach in this particular instance, was to let them do their own paperwork; thereby, giving them an opportunity to learn how to complete new-hire documents (such as I-9 and a W-2 Forms). The ability to complete these rather tricky documents is essential to any self-sufficient independent job seekers. Therefore, I felt it was valuable for them to have a hand at filling them out.

This attitude toward job development that I've developed herein is not unique to me. Many members of the Refugee Resettlement team in Utah are encouraging their clients to be involved in their own job search process.

Finally, how many times have we heard the saying: "Give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime"? I felt that the person I criticized was giving her clients' fish; whereas, I was attempting to teach them how to fish. (I.e. She was giving them completed I-9's and W-2; whereas, I was teaching them how to complete this paperwork).

I won't belittle or patronize my clients by "holding their hand." However, I will support my clients and do everything within my power to help them achieve their goals. I want to help my clients be what they are. And what they are, are capable, confident, and self-sufficient individuals.

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