By Rachel Schumacher, Director, Office of Child Care
The Office of Child Care knows that there has been tremendous growth in the different cultures and languages our country celebrates. We can see these changes in the diverse children and families we serve through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). According to our most recent data, more than 20 percent of children in our program are Hispanic. This diversity offers us an opportunity to consider new and enhanced ways of delivering child care services and partnering with families.
The Office of Child Care partners with our state, tribal, and territory grantees across the country. Together, it is our responsibility to consider how our program can serve different groups. This includes Hispanic families and providers. The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 also provides opportunities to improve the health, safety, and quality of child care. The act adds a new purpose to increase the number and percentage of low-income children in high quality child care. Below are a few steps that the Office of Child Care and its partners can take to ensure we are meeting the needs of Hispanic communities:
- Intentional consumer education – CCDF programs can help make sure that Hispanic families have the information and opportunities they need to access high quality child care. Good consumer education emphasizes how parents can find the right care settings. Both messages and messengers are important parts of consumer education. Partners, for example community-based organizations, should also help determine the best messengers who can help us reach Hispanic families.
- Supporting the professional development of Spanish-speaking providers – Children in child care are best served when those who care for them have knowledge and skills to promote child development and learning. Congress strengthened the Child Care and Development Block Grant law in 2014 and created new training requirements for providers.
So, if we want to do a good job of recruiting and retaining Hispanic providers, we have to support their training and professional development. We can do this by making sure providers know about training opportunities. We can make trainings easily accessible. We can provide them in Spanish or during non-child care hours. We should do this for providers in centers and in family child care homes.
- Fostering cultural and linguistic responsiveness in programs – All child care providers should learn how to work with children and families who have different backgrounds. A new purpose of the child care law is “to promote involvement by parents and family members in the development of their children in child care settings.” For example, the child care provider and child might speak the same language, but the parent might speak a different one. Or, the child care provider might need to learn about traditions and beliefs that are important to the child and family at home.
Supporting children’s home language and culture is an important aspect of a quality child care environment. It fosters positive child development and school readiness. This includes a child’s English language development. Children and families will be more likely to benefit from CCDF-funded programs and have successes in the future, if their linguistic and cultural needs are met.
The Office of Child Care is committed to learning more about the Hispanic communities it serves. We are working on new ways to meet their needs. For example, we have proposed collecting data to find out which language children and families speak at home. That way, we can better understand the language needs of the families we serve. We can also figure out where there are gaps in accessing child care. Also, we recently worked with the Office of Head Start to make sure that our technical assistance centers are well-staffed and equipped. These centers will provide training and technical assistance on how to be responsive to family’s culture and language. These centers can help child care providers be even more responsive to different cultures and languages.
The new child care law supports services to English learners. For example, it requires CCDF grantees to include professional development trainings on the needs of certain populations, including English learners. The Office of Child Care and the Office of Head Start have also created resources for Spanish-speaking providers. Projects like the recently launched Early Educator Central Visit disclaimer page can connect teachers and caregivers with tools and training in Spanish.
As we work with our partners to enroll more low-income children in high quality child care, it is essential that we remember our country’s rich diversity. The children, families and communities we serve represent many different cultures and languages. Child care is certainly not “one size fits all." We are eager to continue to work to meet the needs of all children and families connected to our program.