Early Childhood Education Update - May 2013
May 07, 2013 | Child Care and Early Education
In this issue:
- Children's Development Impacted by Parents' Unauthorized Immigrant Status
- More Progress Needed in State Requirements and Oversight of Child Care Centers
- Preschool Programs Faced Decreased Funding and Stalled Enrollment in 2012
- Low-income Mothers of Young Children Experience Higher Rates of Major Depression
- Series on Importance of Home Language Offers Families and Teachers Guidance on Young Dual Language Learners' Development
- 2013 Status Report Details State Early Childhood Advisory Councils' Activities
- Center on the Developing Child Issues Brief Highlighting Importance of Early Childhood Mental Health
A new report from Migration Policy Institute (MPI) delves into the issue of how children are affected by a parent's unauthorized immigration status. Recent estimates show that 5.5 million US children live with at least one unauthorized immigrant parent - 4.5 million of these children are US-born. About 8 percent of all US children, and about one-third of children of immigrant parents, live with an unauthorized immigrant parent. Little research has been conducted on how a parent's unauthorized status affects a child's development. However, recent research suggests that having an unauthorized immigrant parent is associated with negative developmental outcomes, such as lower cognitive skills in early childhood and higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms in adolescence.
MPI looks at a variety of developmental mechanisms to explain how a parent's unauthorized status might affect a child's development, including:
- How removal and parent-child separation can lead to parental depression and child anxiety and behavior problems. This is based on studies following large workplace raids in the mid-2000s that resulted in parental detention and removal.
- Lower access to public programs that would benefit a child's development. While US-born children are eligible for public programs, unauthorized parents may face barriers to enrolling their children in these programs because of language or lack of information. Oftentimes unauthorized parents are also fearful that enrolling in public programs would identify them as unauthorized immigrants, risking arrest and removal.
- Poor work conditions, psychological distress, and economic hardship experienced by unauthorized immigrant parents. This is often a result of parents working in low-wage jobs due to their status. This distress on parents is associated with low levels of child cognitive development and emotional well-being in early childhood.
In order to alleviate these detrimental effects on child development, MPI recommends better outreach to unauthorized immigrant families around applying for public benefits; nongovernmental and advocacy organizations can also act as intermediaries between immigrant communities and the government. 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.
Child Care Aware of America's fourth review of state child care center policies provides numerical scores for the 50 states, District of Columbia, and Department of Defense (DoD) on their key program requirements and oversight elements for child care centers. The average score across state and DoD requirements and oversight is 92, representing 61 percent of all possible points. The DoD earned the highest score for program requirements and oversight, and Idaho earned the lowest. The DoD and New York earned scores in the top 10 for both program requirements and oversight.
To determine scores, Child Care Aware looked at whether states issued requirements regarding: background checks, initial and annual training hours for staff, health and safety, training in early learning activities and child development, frequency of inspections, and connecting state licensing with quality rating systems.
While states have shown progress since Child Care Aware released its initial report in 2007, there is still room for states to improve their requirements and oversight. The report recommends action at both the federal and state level. Child Care Aware recommends that Congress reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and fund it to include expanded requirements around:
- Protecting children's safety
- Promoting greater accountability in programs
- Increasing the quality of child care.
At the state level the group recommends similar action, including requiring comprehensive background checks, conducting routine inspections, reducing licensing staff caseloads, and requiring child care centers to plan learning activities that address children's developmental needs.
The State of Preschool 2012 released by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) last week reported that nationally, investments by states in pre-kindergarten programs have declined dramatically, dropping by over half a billion dollars from 2011 to 2012 - the largest one year funding drop since NIEER began collecting data in the 2001-2002 school year.
NIEER found that in 2012, states spent on average $3,841 per child in their preschool programs. Adjusted for inflation this is a $1,100 dollar decrease since 2001-2002. Twenty seven of the 40 states that offer state-funded pre-kindergarten programs cut spending in 2011-2012. As funding decreased, enrollment in programs showed little change - forcing programs to do more with less. Programs served 1,333,663 children in 2011-2012 compared to 1,323,128 children in 2010-2011. Nationally, state-funded pre-kindergarten programs enrolled the same percentage of children as last year-28 percent of 4-year-olds and 4 percent of 3-year-olds. The District of Columbia served the highest number of both 3-and 4-year-olds, 69 percent and 92 percent, respectively. Florida and Oklahoma each served more than 70 percent of 4-year-olds in their state.
NIEER's annual Yearbook chronicles state investments and policies on state-operated preschool programs that provide early education at least two days per week to 3- and 4-year-olds. NIEER included state Head Start investments in its analysis, if those investments expanded access to services for additional children.
The Urban Institute's new brief looks at prevalence of major depression in mothers of young children, the extent to which mothers receive treatment, the relationship between health insurance and accessing treatment, and how mothers rate the effectiveness of their treatment. More low-income mothers with young children experience severe depression than higher-income mothers. One in every 11 low-income mothers experienced a major depressive episode in the past year - 8.8 percent, compared to 7.5 percent of mothers with young children across all income groups.
In addition to higher rates of depression, over one-third of low-income mothers with young children has not seen anyone or taken medication to treat their depression. Mothers who were uninsured were much less likely to have received treatment. However, the report does find that low-income mothers on Medicaid had similar treatment rates as low-income mothers who had private or other insurance. Further research looking at how the duration, intensity, and quality of treatment affect outcomes for mothers is needed. Additionally, it is important to better understand how treatment factors vary by income, race and ethnicity, gender, and across geographic locations.
A new series of handouts from the Office of Head Start's National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness highlights the importance of home language in children's development. The handouts provide Head Start staff, families, and other caregivers information on topics relating to children learning two or more languages. The series covers: the benefits of being bilingual, the importance of maintaining home language, and the value of becoming bilingual. The series consists of four handouts, and they are available in both English and Spanish.
Bilingualism is associated with many cognitive and social-emotional benefits. Families and caregivers play a crucial role in supporting children learning two languages. In order to help young dual language learners master their home language and a second language, families and teachers can tell stories, sing songs, and read books in the home language. Additionally, teachers can encourage families to use their home language at home and families can make intentional efforts to speak with their children in the home language. Families and teachers can also encourage children to talk about their traditions and cultures and can look for community activities where children can hear and use their home language.
The State Advisory Councils and Early Childhood Education and Care grant has provided 45 states, the District of Columbia, and 3 territories with funds to help improve coordination and collaboration among a range of early childhood programs and services. Authorized through the Improving Head Start Readiness Act of 2007, and funded through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the State Advisory Council (SAC) grant provided funds from 2010 to 2013. The SAC grant mandates seven required activities, including: conducting periodic statewide needs assessments on quality and availability of high quality care, identifying opportunities and barriers for collaboration and coordination, increasing participation in early care and education programs, establishing recommendations for developing a unified data collection system, establishing recommendations for a statewide professional development system, assessing the effectiveness of higher education to support early childhood educators, and making recommendations for improving state early learning standards.
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently released a status report on the Early Childhood State Advisory Councils. The report offers background on the SAC grant, highlights some examples of how states have made progress across the seven required activities, provides examples of states going beyond the grant requirements, and offers individual state and territory profiles.
SAC grant recipients have made progress across the required activities. For example,
- New Mexico‘s council used geo-mapping to determine the communities in greatest need for early learning services. Montana supported local council coalitions in conducting their own needs assessments. Councils in Vermont and Connecticut identified the prevalence of certain risk factors in their states and communities that are known to negatively impact child outcomes.
- The New Jersey council conducted a study that identified underserved infant and toddler populations, examined reasons for this occurrence, and evaluated effective recruitment methods.
- Michigan, Texas, and Oregon councils have created professional development registries. These allow for early childhood educators to search, register for, and track completed development opportunities.
- Following the example set by Hawaii's council, states are also working to integrate cultural and linguistic considerations into their early learning standards.
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University recently released a brief that focuses on the science behind early childhood mental health. The report is part of their ‘In Brief' series that summarizes findings from recent scientific research on early childhood. The brief outlines five key points pertaining to early childhood mental health.
- Significant mental health problems can and do occur in young children. However, young children respond to and process emotional and traumatic experiences differently, which can make it difficult to diagnosis a mental health problem.
- Impairment in a child's mental health is a result of the interaction between the child's genes and environment.
- Toxic stress can damage a young child's developing brain and can lead to an increased likelihood of mental health problems.
- While some individuals are able to overcome severe challenges and trauma early, there are limits to young children's ability to recover from psychological adversity. This makes prevention and timely intervention crucial.
- Children's mental health problems should be treated within the context of their families, homes, and communities.
By better understanding how emotional well-being can be either improved or damaged in early childhood, policymakers, physicians, and providers of early care and education can work to promote the types of environments and experiences that prevent problems and address early difficulties to avoid long-term developmental damage.