In Focus: Cultural Competency
Nov 26, 2013 | Permalink »
Early Education is not One-Size-Fits-All: Addressing the Unique Needs of Dual Language Learners
More than one in four (27 percent) young children under age 6 in the United States have at least one parent who speaks a language other than English, and one in seven (14 percent) has at least one parent who is limited English proficient (LEP). Many of these children and some of their parents will learn English while learning or speaking another language. For early learning programs to fully reach their goals of supporting children's growth, development, and school readiness, they must be intentional about meeting the educational needs of dual language learners (DLLs).
A recent report from the Migration Policy Institute identifies particular features of early learning programs that most effectively support DLLs. The report finds a few key elements that influence the quality of early education programs for DLLs including accessibility and affordability, language of instruction, instructional practices, assessment, teacher and classroom quality, and school-family partnerships. When these program and policy components are designed using the research available that supports the key elements necessary, high-quality programs for DLLs can produce positive outcomes for children. Some of these programs may already exist as evidenced by a recent comprehensive review of research on young Latino and Spanish-speaking children confirming that public programs like Head Start and public pre-k are helping DLLs make important academic gains.
Understanding the key elements that influence the success and development of participants and integrating them into policies and program design will ensure that children are able to grow, develop, and enter school ready to learn. The changing demographics of the young child population should spur new thinking in the design and implementation of early learning programs. We must ensure that DLLs are not just included, but optimally served, in high-quality early learning programs.
Oct 29, 2013 | Permalink »
A Strengths-Based Look at the State of the Black Child
"Being labeled ‘at risk' is like being voted least likely to succeed. For where there is no faith in your future success, there is no real effort to prepare you for it," says Carol Brunson Day, one of the many experts to contribute commentary to the National Black Child Development Institute's (NBCDI) latest publication, Being Black Is Not a Risk Factor: A Strengths-Based Look at the State of the Black Child.
All too often, black children are defined by the risks associated with their skin color.
While the challenges of black children and black families are real, NBCDI seeks to change the narrative of the limitations and deficits of black children and instead look at the strengths, opportunities and resilience that black children and their families possess. The report includes essays that focus on utilizing strengths to improve outcomes for black children, highlights examples of black children succeeding, and includes data that provides information on how black children and families are doing.
From early childhood to young adulthood, Being Black is Not a Risk Factor identifies the ways that black children and youth benefit from the strengths and resilience of their families and communities and offers a starting point for a national conversation on how black children can be supported to achieve their very best in a culture that has placed many impediments in front of them.
Data can tell many stories. The narrative we don't often hear, but data support, is that black children are more likely to be enrolled in preschool than white children (75 percent of black 4-year-olds, compared to 69 percent of white 4-year-olds); more than 3 in 4 young black children have at least one working parent; and 79 percent of young black children are read to by a family member regularly.
We must not define children by the risk factors associated with their skin color. All children deserve the means to keep themselves healthy, to be provided with stable environments, and to have access to high-quality education to achieve their life's potential. The challenges of black children are critical to understand because they convey the urgency of the need for policymakers and communities to help create a new future for children of color. But that future should be built on children's strengths and communities' successes, not disparities. After all, being black is not a risk factor.
CLASP is pleased to have contributed data analysis to this publication.
Jul 25, 2013 | Permalink »
A Pathway to Citizenship Plays a Positive Role in Children’s Development
Estimates show that 5.5 million U.S. children live with at least one unauthorized immigrant parent-4.5 million of these are U.S.-born citizen children. While many have written about the experiences of children in immigrant families, little research to date has looked at how parents' unauthorized status affects their children's development. A new report from Migration Policy Institute (MPI) suggests that having an unauthorized immigrant parent is associated with negative developmental outcomes, including include lower cognitive skills and emotional well-being in early childhood and higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms in adolescence.
This negative association results from the many challenges and stresses that unauthorized immigrant families experience. Poor work conditions, psychological distress, and economic hardship often experienced by unauthorized immigrant parents working in low-wage jobs (usually due to their status) takes its toll on children, hampering cognitive and socio-emotional development in early childhood.
Children of unauthorized parents often qualify for public programs that would benefit their development. Unfortunately, however, fewer children than are eligible access these public programs due to language barriers, a lack of information and fear among their parents - also negatively impacting children.
In order to alleviate these detrimental effects on child development, there needs to be better outreach to unauthorized immigrant families around applying for public benefits. In addition, nongovernmental and advocacy organizations can act as intermediaries between immigrant communities and the government to help with increasing knowledge and awareness of these programs.
In the early childhood arena, state policies related to access and quality influence whether immigrant families participate in early childhood programs and services, as well as how successful programs are in meeting their needs through culturally and linguistically appropriate practices. Universal, public pre-kindergarten, would also help reach children with unauthorized parents and can help narrow the gaps in child development and school readiness.
Ultimately, a pathway to citizenship for parents would help address these issues. While it remains unlikely that Congress will have the fortitude to pass comprehensive immigration reform, we must still work towards meeting the needs of all young children living in this country. It is a fact that the majority of children of authorized parents are U.S. citizens. The future of all immigrant children is our future -and our country's success depends on their healthy development.