Supporting Linguistically Diverse Family Child Care Providers

Insights from a recent report interviewing Chinese-, Tagalog-, and Spanish-speaking FCC providers and coaches in California.
Blog Post
Jan. 17, 2023

States across the nation are experiencing a decline in family child care (FCC) providers. This decline was exacerbated by the pandemic as FCC providers balanced the increased financial costs of keeping their child care businesses open with keeping their own families safe.

Many families prefer FCC, where care is offered in a home-based setting, due to the cultural and linguistic continuity by virtue of the providers living and working in the same communities. Preference for FCC persisted during the pandemic, potentially because of smaller adult-to-child ratios which reduced the risk of COVID-19 transmission and flexibility with changing work schedules.

FCC providers are a vital part of the early childhood workforce, and it is imperative that we understand and use their experiences to inform policy and retention strategies at a time when the child care industry is facing deep staffing and supply shortages.

A report published last year by Californians Together and the Campaign for Quality Early Education is a state-specific example. Authored by Marlene Zepeda, the report, Listening to Chinese, Filipino, and Latinx Family Child Care Providers During the Pandemic: Implications for Serving Dual Language Learners and Their Families, draws from interviews with twenty-eight Chinese-, Tagalog-, and Spanish-speaking licensed FCC providers and ten coaches who work with Chinese and Spanish-speaking providers.

In California, FCC providers serve a larger concentration of DLLs compared to centers, yet have less access to professional development opportunities and resources. A survey of California’s early childhood workforce found that FCC providers are more likely than center-based providers to be born outside of the United States and speak a language other than or in addition to English.

Given what we know about the benefits of maintaining a child’s home language on cultural identity and English language proficiency and the current shortage of providers well-equipped to support DLLS, it is important to identify how California’s early childhood education system can better support and retain current non-English-speaking FCC providers. The following recommendations included in the report apply to all language groups interviewed.

Increase equitable access to information and educational resources through 1) funding translation and interpretation services, 2) providing technical assistance with new technology, and 3) increasing language capacity of staff serving non-English-speaking FCC providers. Providers cited specific COVID-related challenges with navigating technology and understanding new rules and regulations related to health and safety. They mostly relied on family members for support, but some mentioned reaching out to coaches or other providers who spoke the same language. Chinese- and Spanish-speaking providers were more likely to experience challenges related to the absence of written translation of important training and regulatory documents. Providers from all language groups reported having experienced discrimination due to their English-speaking capacity.

Elevate best practices for bilingual language development through 1) requiring a DLL course to earn a child development permit, 2) culturally and linguistically affirming professional development and implementation support, and 3) developing relevant quality rating criteria that is values-aligned with FCC providers and home-based settings. All providers viewed bilingualism as an asset, but the use of the home language throughout the day varied by language group, activity type, and how long a child had been attending the program. Providers shared concerns about children being “confused if two languages are used” and having to “ask parents for permission” to use their home language, particularly for Tagalog-speaking providers. There is an opportunity to learn DLL-focused evidence-based teaching and family engagement strategies through courses and professional development.

Teaching and learning respect was an important socialization goal mentioned by all providers. Interviewee descriptions of their role centered around the love and affection cultural model of care and familism, where greater emphasis is placed on the family unit. Because these values may differ from what is promoted in mainstream early childhood programs, coaches noted differences in how providers embraced their role as educators. This also came up as coaches reflected on their own training and responsibility to promote practices associated with quality rating improvement efforts, which is not necessarily aligned to the cultural models of care valued by FCC providers.

Expand capacity to support non-English-speaking FCC providers regardless of whether they receive subsidies through 1) funding initiatives that promote cross-sector collaboration, 2) staffed family child care networks, and 3) professional development for leadership with decision-making and oversight authority. The providers and coaches interviewed were recruited through local associations and resource and referral organizations. This means the findings reflect individuals who are well connected to other providers, coaches, and resources. With this in mind, while the proposed solutions will likely benefit all providers, the challenges raised during the interviews may only scratch the surface on the range of barriers faced by providers who may be more isolated.

Furthermore, even though no coach supporting Tagalog-speaking providers could be identified for this project, Tagalog-speaking providers identified multiple places where they were able to seek support. Thus, it is important to not only invest in traditional coaching roles, but other cross-sector initiatives or networks that uplift and adequately compensate trusted, experienced individuals who may already be doing this work without receiving recognition. Buy-in from those holding leadership positions will help ensure there is actual increased funding and infrastructure to support FCC providers across a range of associations and networks.

This report illuminates the linguistic and cultural nuances that non-English-speaking FCC providers navigate in their role. Continuing to partner with and learn from the diverse FCC provider population can act as both a retention strategy for the field and an opportunity for the workforce to gain access to the resources and professional development needed to effectively support DLLs.

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