Cultural Competency

The young child population is growing in racial, cultural and linguistic diversity. Children in immigrant families make up a large and growing share of the U.S. child population. CLASP works to ensure that early childhood programs, standards, and policies are responsive to the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse children. We also study the barriers that prevent immigrant families from accessing high-quality child care and early education programs and work to promote policies that remove these barriers and improve access to quality programs.

Feb 3, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Safe Spaces in Early Childhood: New Resources to Support Young Children in Immigrant Families

By Wendy Cervantes

Last week, the new administration began to issue a series of executive orders on immigration and refugee policy, creating a great deal of uncertainty among immigrant families and the people who serve them. One of the orders focused on interior enforcement would significantly expand immigration enforcement measures, increasing the risk that over 5 million children—the majority of whom are U.S. citizens—could be separated from a parent. Schools and child care and Head Start programs should be prepared to support immigrant families during this difficult time and be aware of the existing protections under current laws and policies.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued a user-friendly fact sheet to help clarify current policy from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security restricting immigration enforcement actions at or near schools and other “sensitive locations.” The fact sheet clearly specifies that child care centers, bus stops, and similar places fall under the “sensitive locations” definition.  Another immigration enforcement guide developed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and other partners also proposes how educators and service providers can support and advocate for students and families at risk of being targeted by enforcement actions.

Research consistently shows that fear of separation from a parent due to immigration enforcement hinders a child’s ability to concentrate in school and can have harmful long-term implications for a child’s overall health and well-being. Heightened concerns over immigration enforcement can also create a chilling effect on school attendance, particularly when local police are engaged in immigration enforcement efforts. Thus, it is important that administrators and providers address the increased anxiety among children and families due to the recent immigration executive orders by assuring them that early childhood programs and schools will remain safe spaces for all students. 

Another important tool recently released by ED is a comprehensive resource guide to promote access to quality early learning and elementary education for immigrant families. The guide includes tips for providers on how to better serve children, along with a handbook to educate parents and families about early learning opportunities. The guide also compiles critical information on educational rights of children in immigrant families—such as the federal right to equal access to public education for all children regardless of immigration status—and federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or disability. Finally, it includes an overview of schools’ obligations to meet the needs of English Learners and accommodate Limited English Proficient parents.

These resources come at a critical time when our child population is more diverse than ever, yet our policies and systems continue struggling to respond effectively. While young children of immigrants now comprise the fastest growing segment of the U.S. child population, they remain underrepresented in early learning programs, and the recent executive orders now threaten to further deter immigrant families from seeking early learning opportunities.

Schools and program administrators have a responsibility to uphold the educational rights of children in immigrant families, provide families with accurate information, and create welcoming environments where all children can feel safe and supported. CLASP looks forward to working with early childhood advocates to promote programs and policies that will ensure every child has the opportunity to pursue an education free from fear and discrimination. We encourage our partners to share these resources with administrators, providers, and parents.

Read the ED Sensitive Locations Fact Sheet>>

Read the AFT Immigrant and Refugee Children Guide>>

Read the ED Resource Guide: Building a Bright Future for All>>

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