In Focus: Cultural Competency

Dec 2, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Using Two-Generational Strategies to Support Immigrant Families

By: Christina Walker and Helly Lee

Back in the spring, CLASP convened a high-level group of professionals for a two-day, intensive discussion of important opportunities in policy and practice to better serve immigrant parents and their children together. This Two-Generational Strategies to Improve Immigrant Family and Child Outcome roundtable included senior policymakers, practitioners, researchers, advocates, and foundation leaders from the world of policy and service delivery for low-income families and the world of immigrant-serving organizations and immigration policy.

Today, CLASP is releasing a brief summarizing the highlights drawn from the April roundtable. The roundtable and brief come at a critical time, when immigrants and their children are such a significant part of the changing demographics of the United States. Immigrant families are crucial to the nation’s future success: one-quarter of the nation’s young children – those under age 6 - are children of immigrants. Being a child of immigrants is not itself a risk factor for poor developmental outcomes, and many immigrant families demonstrate strong resilience and success. However, the brief highlights the challenges that arise from the sheer difficulty of providing high-quality services in the face of barriers such as language, education level, race, and poverty that some immigrant families encounter. For instance:

  • 29 percent of young children of immigrants are poor and more than half -56 percent - are low-income;
  • 3 million (50 percent) of immigrant parents with young children are Limited English Proficient (LEP); and
  • 28 percent of immigrant parents of young children have less than a high school degree.

Participants in the roundtable reiterated the urgency of  this moment to have critical conversations and make crucial connections between immigrant-serving and more “mainstream” organizations in order to seize promising policy opportunities. With major policy changes underway as a result of recent reauthorizations of the nation’s child care subsidy and workforce programs, as well as federal executive action to promote immigrant integration, participants identified key strategies, including four practical action steps highlighted in the brief to advance two-generational strategies to support immigrant parents and their children:

  1. Spreading the Sense of Urgency and Opportunity by replicating the discussion of two-generational strategies to support immigrant families and children in convenings around the country to share knowledge and provide an opportunity to plan collaboratively.
  2. Creating Strategic Partnerships involving immigrant-serving organizations, those that currently deliver workforce or early childhood services, and others that serve low income communities of color. Participants also emphasized that creating and sustaining these partnerships requires that federal agencies and philanthropic funders must play a critical support role in providing resources.
  3. Building the New Mainstream Institutions to better serve immigrant families by increasing the capacity of organizations, creating accountability and transparency for what success looks like, and creating opportunities for collaboration.
  4. Thinking Both Big and Small by responding to today’s urgent concern in a way that supports far bigger change in the future: keep the focus simultaneously on immediate, incremental steps and an ambitious long-run vision.

This discussion of two-generational strategies to support immigrant families and children is all the more important given the current budget context at the federal level, with many key programs struggling to meet the needs of today’s families. For example, the Child Care and Development Block Grant is reaching the smallest number of children in 15 years, and the risk that services to immigrants will get worse, not better, is significant. In addition, as Congress delays action on immigration reform policies that would address the needs of immigrant families and as the federal courts continue to stall the implementation of key provisions in the President’s executive order to provide temporary relief for millions of immigrant parents of American children, it is urgent to provide the supports immigrant families need. Significant additional investment is needed to fully seize the important opportunities to support young children of immigrants and help immigrant adults succeed in their dual roles as parents and workers.

Read the brief >> 

Jun 10, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Improving Parent Engagement Opportunities For Refugee and Immigrant Families In Early Childhood Programs

By Christina Walker

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) highlights the significant obstacles immigrant and refugee populations face as they try to engage in their children’s education. For immigrant families, severe economic barriers are often compounded by low literacy levels or limited English proficiency (LEP), making participation in a child’s learning difficult. Early childhood programs are challenged, too, in meeting the needs of a rapidly growing number of immigrant parents with young children.

One issue identified in the report is the lack of dedicated federal funding to support immigrant families and their unique needs. Therefore, even something as basic as addressing language barriers through translation services can be difficult for programs to plan for and adequately fund. The report emphasizes additional challenges, including gaps in services and limited outreach to families who speak less common languages, as well as school and community climates that are not positive or inclusive.

The report highlights the critical need to address the challenges facing immigrant parents of young children, particularly those with low literacy or LEP. Local communities and programs can improve access to early learning opportunities through outreach and enrollment efforts targeted specifically to these families. For instance, staff should be encouraged to participate in community events, perform door-to-door recruitment, and galvanize parents of enrolled children to promote the programs to other eligible families within their communities. The enrollment process should also be more flexible and responsive to immigration families’ challenges; this can include accepting multiple documents to fulfill enrollment requirements, providing enrollment assistance, and offering enrollment times and locations that are convenient and accessible to the community.  Once enrolled, state and local communities can best engage and build positive relationships with families when their backgrounds are integrated into programs in a meaningful way through:

  • Hiring staff who reflect the families served;
  • Supporting and organizing cultural celebrations;
  • Translating program materials into the native languages of all families;
  • Making interpreters available for communication; and
  • Interacting with the families’ communities outside of the program.

As increased investments offer states new opportunities to expand early learning, state and local communities should prioritize the needs of immigrant families at the forefront of their planning efforts.  

May 16, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Improving Pre-Kindergarten Access for Children of Immigrants

By Rhiannon Reeves

Despite opportunities for advancing school readiness and child well-being, children of immigrants are less likely than children of U.S.-born citizens to access early education programs. A new Urban Institute report confirms that states and local communities can improve access to preschool by using intentional outreach and enrollment strategies and building stronger relationships with parents.

Children of immigrants and English Language Learners (ELLs) are a growing segment of the U.S. population, accounting for nearly one-quarter of all children in the United States.  To accommodate such growth and diversity, communities and states across the country must meet the needs of immigrant families.

Supporting Immigrant Families' Access to Prekindergarten makes proposals for conducting outreach that supports pre-kindergarten enrollment amongst immigrant families and ELLs; helping immigrant families overcome language, documentation, and other logistical barriers when enrolling their children in prekindergarten programs; and building trust and good relationships with immigrant parents and designing immigrant- and ELL-friendly programs. The report includes strategies for:

  • Outreach: To ensure immigrant families are aware of pre-kindergarten and other available options, programs should participate in community events, go door-to-door in targeted neighborhoods, reach parents in places they already frequent such as grocery stores and churches, encourage parents of enrolled children to recruit other parents, and use mass media.
  • Enrolling families: To help parents meet paperwork requirements and streamline the application forms and enrollment process, programs should accept multiple document sources to fulfill enrollment requirements; be flexible in the ways that families can verify their income; create enrollment forms sensitive to immigrant families’ needs; offer multiple ways to enroll; provide enrollment assistance; and offer a variety of enrollment times and locations.  These approaches benefit all families, not just immigrant families.
  • Building relationships with parents: To help pre-kindergarten programs become self-sustaining, programs should engage immigrant families as ambassadors by building trust and good relationships with parents and communities through a welcoming attitude; work with trusted community partners; build capacity for communicating with immigrant parents; address logistical barriers such as volatile work schedules; and build cultural competency that supports families’ cultural beliefs and practices.

To meet the changing demographics of the young child population, policymakers need to creatively address the design and implementation of early learning programs to ensure ELLs are included and ideally served in high-quality early learning programs such as pre-kindergarten. As states consider expanding pre-kindergarten offerings through new federal opportunities and additional state funding, ensuring such programs include and benefit children of immigrants will be essential.

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