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.