Fairfax County Public Schools
Immigrant Family Reunification Program (IFRP)
The Fairfax County Public Schools Immigrant Family Reunification Program (IFRP) is an effort to identify immigrant students going through family reunification and to invite their parents to participate in parenting education classes that provide strategies for, as early as possible, successful reunification.
Many parents have come to the United States thinking they would be separated from their children only for a short period of time. Their children stay with relatives or other caregivers until the parents are financially stable to bring them. The separation causes pain in both sides; and legal and economic barriers can often keep them apart for much longer than expected. IFRP intends to help heal wounds in both parents and children, promote positive family reunions, and identify resources in the schools and community that can help them.
Families Reunite includes a 42 page soft cover guide for parents that is used in a 9-hour parenting class. The last session brings parents and children together to work in activities that have goals to improve communication, empathy and understanding among them. This last session sometimes becomes the most important one since parents and their children get to interact with each other outside of stressful circumstances.
Some of the most important topics examined are:
Parents learn that the reunification process is not easy, and that they are not alone (among those who immigrated to the U.S. there are common challenges that impact children and families). They practice strategies to improve their relationship and communication with their children. They learn to see the child's perspective and to use strategies that promote positive family reunions. Last, but not least, they learn about local and national resources that can support them.
The Families Reunite curriculum is for Spanish speaking and Arabic speaking parents and children. There is also a West African version of the curriculum. The Reconnecting Families Guides are in English and Spanish.
Parent classes are paid for with school funds, or with Office of Family and School Partnership's funds. Often the expenses are shared in that the school provides child care and refreshments. Grant funding has also been used to pay for instructors. Professional development trainings are offered for a small fee. Cost of Families Reunite parent guides are $5 per book. The first ten Reconnecting Families books are FREE; after that the cost is $1 per guide. Other individual program costs may include facilitator fee, child care, and refreshments.
We recommend one trained facilitator, an instructional assistant and one site professional (i.e., school counselor or social worker for support during the sessions). A parent or community liaison is essential to do the outreach and register parents.
We apply a pre- and post-evaluation in order to know how much the participants have learned during the training and their perception of the training in general. Here it is an example of what the parents have expressed:
"Because of this workshop my relationship with my children is improving incredibly. Things that seemed to be impossible to achieve, now we see them possible." ~Parent, post-evaluation
"The best thing about this class was that everyone shared their point of view." ~Parent, post-evaluation
"I think the time lived apart from children has increased the lack of trust between us which makes it difficult for us to have a conversation." ~Parent, pre-evaluation
"The best thing about this class was having met people who are going through the same." ~Parent, post-evaluation
"What I have learned from this class is to give my children more love and affection." ~Parent, post-evaluation
Family Partnerships Specialist
Family and School Partnerships
Dunn Loring Center for Parent Services
Family and School Partnershipsz
Dunn Loring Center for Parent Services
This program is still operating as of 2017.