Early Childhood Education Update (August 2013)
August 08, 2013 | Child Care and Early Education
- First-of-its-Kind Report Analyzes Children's Well-being across Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration
- Head Start Brief Looks at Children's Backgrounds and Developmental Outcomes
- Updated Handbook Aids Providers in Creating Healthy Child Care Environments
- New Papers from Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Highlight Immigrant Children's Education and Health
The Foundation for Child Development (FCD) has released a new report, Diverse Children: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration in America's New Non-Majority Generation, comparing children's wellbeing across White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic race-ethnic groups, and provides further breakdowns based on whether their parents are immigrants or U.S.-born. The report assesses wellbeing using a number of indicators, including: poverty and near-poverty, secure employment, median family income, health insurance rates, pre-kindergarten enrollment rates, and educational outcomes.
Among its findings, the report notes that Black children of U.S.-born parents and Hispanic children of immigrants fared the worst across race-ethnic groups in terms of poverty and near-poverty status, median family income, and secure parental employment rates. Children of immigrants have lower rates of pre-kindergarten enrollment and more frequently lack health insurance. However, children of immigrants are less likely to be born low birth weight and have lower infant mortality rates. Fourth grade math and reading proficiency levels vary between race-ethnic and home-language groups; however, all groups have performed poorly.
In order to address the disparities present across these race-ethnic groups and between children of immigrants and those who are not, FCD recommends:
- Investing in Education. High-quality early education should be available to all children starting with infants and toddlers, to pre-kindergarten, through access to full-day kindergarten. Additionally, more work should be done to address the needs of Dual language learners.
- Investing in Health. Federal and state governments must work to ensure all children are eligible for and covered by health insurance; this includes the one million children who are unauthorized immigrants.
- Investing in Economic Wellbeing of Children and Families. Too many children are growing up in poverty or near-poverty. Programs that support the economic wellbeing of families, such as the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), should maintain investments, and in some cases be expanded, to address the needs of children and families.
- Investing in Immigrant Families. Immigrant families should have the opportunity to obtain a secure job with a living wage; programs that teach immigrant and non-immigrant parents English and improve their English literacy skills can help with this. Additionally, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) act should be implemented to support immigrants in obtaining college degrees.
Using data from the 2009 Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) cohort, a recently released policy brief reports on the participants' family backgrounds and developmental outcomes. Half of children in this cohort were three-years-old when they first entered Head Start in 2009, and the other half were four-years-old or older. Twenty-eight percent of children in Head Start speak a language other than English at home. Sixty-seven percent of children live with at least one parent who has at least a high school degree or a GED; 77 percent have at least one parent living with them who is working full-time; and 12 percent have at least one parent working part-time.
Looking at children's outcomes from the start of their Head Start experience to the end, they tended to perform at the norm on their letter-word knowledge score, but below norms across language, literacy, and math measures. Still, children made progress across all of these areas between Head Start entry and exit.
Teachers noted growth in children's social skills and a decline in the number of behavior problems reported from program entry to exit. They also noted more positive approaches to learning and stronger executive functions in children at the end of Head Start. From the beginning to the end of Head Start, there was no change in children's Body Mass Index (BMI), with about one-third of children overweight or obese at both entry and exit. A majority of parents reported that their children were in excellent or very good health at the beginning and end of Head Start.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly updated Nutrition & Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). This handbook helps CACFP providers create healthier environments for the children they care for, and it draws from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education, 3rd Edition.
The handbook is divided into topics, such as "Building a Healthy Plate with Fruits" and "Provide Opportunities for Active Play Every Day," each with a tip sheet that includes practical applications on the topic. The tip sheets help providers plan healthy meals and activities for children ages two through five who are in their care. There is also a section highlighting success stories on how providers have planned healthier meals for and improved the activities they plan for the children in their care.
As part of a larger series, MPI recently released two papers examining the health and early academic success of children of immigrants.
- Preparing Children of Immigrants for Early Academic Success. The "immigrant paradox" points to the academic success of children of immigrants, many of who outperform expectations and peers. However, younger children of immigrants do not necessarily follow this trend, indicating that they may be at greater risk of starting school behind their peers. Data on school readiness and the health of young children of immigrants provides some cause for concern about potential long-term negative effects. In order to improve the school readiness and health disparities young immigrant children exhibit in comparison to their non-immigrant peers, MPI provides three overarching recommendations. First, the author recommends expanded access to early childhood education programs to improve the early academic and social emotional outcomes for young immigrant children. Second, he recommends implementing policies that promote young immigrant children's health. And third, the author recommends greater efforts to build family-school partnerships.
- Is the United States Bad for Children's Health? Risk and Resilience Among Young Children of Immigrants. The health and health risks among children of immigrants vary based on background and origin country. Some national-origin groups of immigrants fare well, while others tend to face poorer socioeconomic status and limited access to public benefits and services, putting their health at greater risk. Building on past research, the paper's authors provide background on children of immigrants across all national origin groups before narrowing their focus to the most vulnerable group: children of Mexican immigrants. The paper provides a set of key findings:1) During early childhood, adverse conditions or traumatic experiences can have a significant, long-term effect on children's physical and mental health, making investments during this period crucial. While children of immigrants have fewer instance of low birth weight and lower infant mortality rates, they lose this comparative health advantage by early and middle childhood; 3) Children of Mexican immigrants face greater health risks compared to most other children; and 4) Mexican immigrant families are likely to experience several challenges that contribute to poor health, such as low socioeconomic status, limited English proficiency, high rates of food insecurity, and unauthorized status.