Utica, New York is being held up as the example of an American city that loves its refugees. (Just google ‘Utica, city that loves refugees’ and you’ll see what I mean.) But, according to an article entitled “Many Teen Refugees Falling through the Gap” in the Utica Observer Dispatch yesterday there is trouble brewing in this city whose population is at least 10% refugees. Refugee teens are at loose ends and not particpating in American non-profit group programs such as the Boys and Girls Club.
Could teens at loose ends go the way of Nashville’s Kurds and form gangs? That possibility is the obvious concern here.
Established youth-oriented nonprofit organizations, which many American-born teenagers have grown up with, are not having much success in reaching refugee teens.
These teens are unaware of the scope of the services provided by nonprofits and in some cases are uncomfortable showing up to the facilities without a clear picture of what goes on there, officials and experts say.
As a result:
•refugee teens, who already face loads of pressure because of their newly amplified roles within their own families, feel adrift.
•The Utica school district winds up filling in gaps.
•And the nonprofits themselves haven’t connected with a plentiful source of new clients in a changing city. At least 1-in-10 Uticans is a refugee, and the extent of diversity among children and teens is even greater.
No kidding on the diversity issue mentioned above. The refugees are from Bosnia (Europe), Somalia (Africa), and Burma (Asia) and have nothing in common.
But, like all do-gooders they think all will be solved if you just throw some taxpayer money at the problem. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) gave a substantial grant that apparently hasn’t solved anything.
In 2003, the refugee center had created the Refugee Delinquency Program only to see funding later run out.
The program was funded with a three-year $150,000 grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Refugee services director Ioanna Balint said the youth program was created in response to trends she noticed in area schools.
The refugee center hoped to ease the cultural transition for these teens, who often struggle with balancing the traditions of their home country with the new American culture.
Keep this article in mind when the Refugee promotion team sets up a photo display about the City that Loves Refugees in your town.