Does theory align with practice? An evaluation of the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society’s Newcomer Wraparound Support Program




Kalman, Evelyn

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There are a variety of programs throughout Canada aimed to help newcomers successfully settle and integrate into Canadian society. The focus of this study is the Newcomer Wraparound Support Program (NWSP) offered through the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS) in Victoria, British Columbia. The NWSP incorporates a wraparound approach into its service delivery to help the most vulnerable immigrants and refugees successfully settle in Greater Victoria. Wraparound is a planning process that follows a series of steps to help clients realize their hopes and dreams. With the help of one or more trained professionals, people from the client’s life work together, coordinate activities, and blend their perspectives of the client’s situation to determine an action plan that will meet the client’s needs and help accomplish their goals. An impact evaluation was conducted to determine whether the NWSP is effective at helping newcomers navigate complex barriers to settlement and integration. The methodology employed was a mixed methods approach, wherein quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection were integrated to address the research problem more fully. Data collection occurred through two concurrent methods: (1) quantitative surveys and (2) qualitative semi-structured, open-ended interviews. The evaluation survey and interview guides were designed based on five wraparound success indicators noted in the literature: (1) goal attainment; (2) client resilience; (3) wraparound fidelity; (4) working alliance; and (5) overall client satisfaction. There were three populations of interest: (1) Current clients of the NWSP; (2) Former clients of the NWSP; and (3) the Settlement Team responsible for administering the NWSP. The data collection methods implemented resulted in a total of 40 surveys and 11 interviews. On average, participants cited approximately three barriers to settlement and integration. The most common barriers were difficulty speaking English and challenges finding a suitable job. In addition, the findings of this study reveal that the NWSP is effective at successfully integrating newcomers by connecting them to various community resources and inviting their participation in opportunities, such as ESL classes and employment skills training. Newcomers who participated in this study appeared satisfied with the Program and grateful to have received its services. On average, 64.8% of participants stated that the Program has helped them achieve their goals of settling into Canadian society. Areas of improvement were also noted. Specifically, program administrators stated that there are limited community resources, such as housing, child care, and ESL classes. Heavy workload is also associated with a stressful work environment and high staff turnover rates. In addition, limited funding is preventing adequate support from diverse professionals, such as lawyers and counsellors. The three recommendations provided – the introduction and implementation of an annual program evaluation; an employee recruitment and retention strategy; and a diversified funding stream – consider these issues in effort to enhance program effectiveness.