County will react to Latino study
SUMMIT COUNTY- A new report funded by The Summit Foundation is launching a coordinated effort by nonprofits and government agencies to better meet the needs of the Latino immigrant community.
Authors of the report, entitled “The Voice of Latino Immigrants in Summit County: Findings From a Community-Based Needs Assessment,” interviewed 29 Latino immigrants in three focus groups.
The interviews addressed access to services, parental involvement in education and community involvement.
Christina Carlson, director of the Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC), said the needs assessment is a jumping off point to better provide services to Latino families and to obtain more funding for such services.
Carlson is presenting the findings this month to a host of agencies and organizations including education officials, law enforcement and social services providers.
According to the study, obtaining documentation in a post-9-11 world is one of the most frustrating challenges for the Latino immigrant community. Obtaining personal identification is necessary to access many resources, such as employment, bank accounts, housing and health care.
“At times, you’re afraid to go to the clinic, because they’re going to ask for a legal identification,” said a participant in the Access to Resources focus group. “A lot of people are afraid to go to certain places where they could get help, because they are going to ask for a Social Security number.”
Another participant said many immigrants come to the county prepared for a career. They may have the skills and knowledge for jobs as engineers, secretaries, architects or electricians, but barriers to obtaining documentation prevent them from using such skills.
Lack of access to documentation can create a persistent sense of vulnerability and fear of deportation and job loss. It also exacerbates a sense of not being a legitimate part of the community.
Study participants said that in addition to access to documentation, the other top needs of immigrants are employment, affordable housing and centralized sources of information.
Participants in the Community Involvement focus group said that they encountered little to no interpersonal discrimination from whites.
“The company I’m with, they are all Americans,” said one participant. “They try to talk to me in Spanish, and I, with the little English I know, try to talk to them. They’re very nice, always respectful. I feel very comfortable there with them.”
Participants said they do experience friction from other Latino immigrants who may be from different countries or with whom they compete for limited resources.
“Many times, one’s own people are those with whom you have to struggle the most,” said one participant. “It might be because of envy. For example, if (someone) knows a little English, (he or she) is talking with the boss more than I am. Many times, it’s over little things.”
Members of the focus group said that demanding work schedules contribute to the lack of social cohesion.
“A lot of people go from work to their home, and from home to work,” a participant said. “It’s a daily routine that, day to day, is always the same. Where is there to go?”
The Parental Involvement in Education focus group explored cultural differences between the participants’ countries of origin and Summit County.
Participants said that parental involvement in their children’s education is more formalized in Summit County. Many parents were unaccustomed to parent-teacher conferences, Parent Teacher Association meetings and field trips.
Parents in the group expressed concern over cultural differences in disciplinary standards. Some felt that if they disciplined their children in a manner they felt appropriate, they might be suspected of child abuse in a society that holds different views.
Many in the group were very encouraged by the Summit County teachers’ attentiveness to Latino needs and by teachers’ efforts to communicate with Latino parents.
“One feels the teachers are very good with the children,” said one parent. “The teachers make your son or daughter feel good that they speak both languages. They say, “there’s a future for him being bilingual.'”
Once the report’s coordinating agencies finish presenting the findings of the study to the community, they will convene a countywide task force to improve and better coordinate services to Latinos.
Members of the group will include the Summit School District, Colorado Mountain College, law enforcement, FIRC, Head Start and the Summit Prevention Alliance.
The study was conducted by OMNI Research and Training and coordinated by the Summit Prevention Alliance, FIRC and Summit County Health and Human Services.
Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at
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