Mason Project on Immigration and Voices for Virginia’s Children Host Forum

Posted: May 7, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Probst

George Mason University’s Project on Immigration will partner with Voices for Virginia’s Children to host the forum “Defining the Unmet Needs of Children in Northern Virginia: The Opportunities and Challenges of a Diverse Community.”

The forum will be held on the Fairfax Campus on Tuesday, May 22, from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Student Union Building II.

As the diverse population in Northern Virginia continues to grow, so does the strain on community resources, especially on public and private organizations trying to meet the varied and complex needs of children. Barriers such as cultural and language differences often stand in the way of children receiving the resources and opportunities they need to grow.

Human service providers, state legislators, teachers, philanthropist foundations and other community leaders will have the opportunity to examine the benefits and challenges of a large and diverse population at the forum. Issues affecting the development, health and stability of immigrant children and their families will be emphasized.

“Seventy percent of children in Northern Virginia were born in the United States, while their families are immigrants. These children have such strong ties to America that it is important to provide them with resources and opportunities, as they will play a critical role in the future of our country,” says Eugenia Verdaguer, director of the Mason Project on Immigration.

The forum will focus on three issues: physical and mental health care, early care, education and community involvement and family economic self-sufficiency and success. Attendees will be divided into three groups and will discuss one of the three issues.

According to Kathy May, director of Voices for Virginia’s Children in Northern Virginia, each group will develop the top three barriers faced by their topic and three ways to overcome these challenges. The groups will then come together to discuss their issues and findings.

“We want to start a dialogue so that in the future we can develop three action committees who can move forward and begin fixing the problems faced by children,” says May.

The long-term goal of the forum is to combine the three action committees to form a children’s agenda.

“When we talk about children, we’re talking about the future of America,” says Verdaguer. “If we continue to leave children’s needs unmet there will be problems down the road.”

Registration is requested by May 14; space is limited. The cost for professionals and community leaders is $20, and the cost for students is $10.

For more information and to register online, visit the Voices for Virginia’s Children web site.

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