This dissertation is based on a qualitative case study that examined the experiences of Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) when working with refugee students and their families. Based on a written questionnaire of all SWIS workers in a large urban school district thirteen participants were interviewed to explore the SWIS workers’ narratives to develop descriptions and interpretations of their experiences with refugee families with the intent of providing relevant insight into the program. Three general questions guided this research: 1) How this program has assisted refugee families in the settlement process? 2) What successes and challenges SWIS workers encountered in their work? 3) To what extent their experience has been congruent with the intended British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development, Immigrant Integration Branch and the Ministry of Education outcomes? This study focused on a large urban school district that services a significant refugee population. A case study methodology was employed as a tool for investigating and providing a rich portrayal of the SWIS workers’ experience. The results of the interviews highlighted four key themes that are barriers to successful settlement for refugee families – pre-settlement, health, home/school relationship, and identity. In addition to these four themes, the findings suggest that many families are beginning the settlement process with severe limitations, prohibiting full engagement in the settlement process. The concept of a pre-settlement stage within a Taxonomy of Integration is explored.
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