Refugee & Migrant Children

Due to forced migration, an estimated 50 million children are on the move worldwide. Young children (under 4) account for 16% of their total number. A great risk, as the age range 0-6 is a critical period in the development of a child, and the quality of living and learning a strong indicator for future life outcomes.

Children on the road and in refugee camps meet threatening and damaging surroundings which endanger their childhoods as well as their future. Safety, food, warm clothes and a decent place to sleep are scarcely provided and urgent responses are needed to prevent irreversible damage and limitations to their chances of ever living a fulfilling life.

As parents' personal well-being affects that of their children, there is an urgent need to support them as well. Strong uncertainties about the present and future are further exacerbated by physical and mental exhaustion, stress and distress brought on by their suffering.

What we do

  • We help to provide psychosocial support, care and education for the youngest refugee and migrant children.
  • We help to provide psychosocial support to parents in order to increase their parenting competences affected by toxic stress.
  • We support professionals and practitioners by providing them with professional development opportunities which combine the acquisition of new knowledge and skills with psychosocial support.

Advocacy & programs

ISSA's initiatives for refugee and migrant children recognize the vulnerability of infants and toddlers in these impoverished circumstances. We advocate for higher quality services, develop programs, and envisage interventions to empower professionals and a diverse set of practitioners. Our work equips those working in the field with the tools they need to provide the best possible services to children and families in various environments. Our work also aims to strengthen the capacities of parents, who often lack support to deal with their stress and must fulfill their parenting roles under difficult conditions. We work closely with Ministries and local governments in order to ensure political support for interventions in the field.

ISSA's initiatives for refugee and migrant children build on long-time knowledge and extensive experience on quality early childhood services, equity for marginalized groups and fostering social cohesion in order to mobilize and strengthen local capacities in transit and hosting countries, to provide the best possible childhood and start in life for the youngest of those on the move and their families.

In the recent years we have worked on several projects serving young refugee and migrant children.

A Flying Start
Promoting wellbeing and development of young children, especially the most vulnerable, in Europe and Central Asia

The program A Flying Start provided during 2016-2017 technical support to the One Response UNICEF Office in Berlin. It comprised a training package and a Toolbox for managers, child protection coordinators and trainers of staff working in refugee reception centers, and was disseminated by German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and used in 100 refugee centers across Germany.

Together with partners and UNICEF ECARO, ISSA contributed to the development of a training package and Toolbox for managers, child protection coordinators and trainers of staff working in refugee reception centers which was disseminated by German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and it is used in 100 refugee centers across Germany. The training package and Toolbox focuss on child friendly space services, early learning and play groups, mother/father–baby groups and afterschool support with the special focus on respect for diversity. ISSA also played an important role in training trainers who further spread both tools and knowledge.

Online Library
To further support trainers and practitioners, ISSA provided assistance to One Response UNICEF Office in Berlin by mapping and collecting resources for an online library and platform, which encourages information sharing and aids in language learning. A Flying Start also gave the staff at reception centers, many who do not have a background in Early Childhood Development, tools to help young children succeed. In cooperation with Kinder Kunste Zentrum and UNICEF, ISSA developed Creativity Activity Cards to support and encourage creativity, play and parental involvement.

Building Bridges - Bridging the Gap
Supporting wellbeing, learning, development and integration of young refugee and migrant children in Greece

In 2017, together with ISSA Member EADAP, with the support of the Open Society Foundation’s Early Childhood Program we developed a report on the context in which young children in refugee camps were living and the actors who participated in their lives. The report included suggestions for the Early Childhood Development interventions which will benefit young refugee and migrant children through a follow-up project, Building Bridges - Bridging the Gap.

Increasing access and quality of early childhood education and care by enabling kindergarten and nurseries teachers to provide refugee and migrant children with meaningful and enriching experiences in order to buffer effects of toxic stress.

Enabling work in refugee camps
The Building Bridges project enables work in kindergartens in refugee camps on islands and in nurseries in different municipalities in Greece. The project started in 2017 and continues through 2019. It is carried out in partnership with the Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, EADAP, University of Patras, Refugee Trauma Initiative, City of Athens and two other municipalities.

Two kindergartens on Kos and Leros were equipped, the training packages for kindergarten teachers were developed and the training to teachers from islands for was delivered in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Educational Institute.

Improve nurseries
In parallel, ISSA works with EADAP, RTI and Local Governments to enrich the capacities of nurseries to attract refugee and migrant parents and families to enroll their children in responsive and quality nursery services, and to strengthen social cohesion in the neighborhoods/communities where they are located. Both training programs will be taken over by the Ministry and local governments and used all over Greece.