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Title:Early care and education services utilization among Mexican immigrants in central Illinois
Author(s):Galarza-Heras, Maria
Director of Research:Wiley, Angela R.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Wiley, Angela R.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Pleck, Joseph; Raffaelli, Marcela; Viruell-Fuentes, Edna
Department / Program:Human & Community Development
Discipline:Human & Community Development
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Early Care and Education (ECE)
Mexican immigrants
child care
sociocultural theory
child development
Abstract:Mexicans represent more than half (65%) of the Latinos in the United States, and Latinos are the largest racial/ethnic minority group (U.S. Bureau, 2011a). Over the last decade, the number of Latino children has increased faster than those of other racial/ethnic groups, and nearly one quarter (22%) of children under the age of five are Latinos (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). Participation in Early Care and Education settings (ECEs) among immigrant children between the ages of three to five years old can greatly promote their cognitive, physical, and social development. Access to a good education is vital for the success of the children of immigrants and a good ECEs experience can form the foundation for later educational achievement (Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 2002). ECEs also play a crucial role in facilitating children’s integration into American society. More specifically, ECEs can confer social capital that helps to sustain the children of immigrants through their adaptation to a new socio-cultural environment (Brandon, 2004). Having a child in an ECE setting offers many rewards for parents, including the social integration and economic mobility (Brandon, 2004). This study uses a quantitative approach to analyze the utilization of ECEs among Mexican immigrant parents, looking at the patterns of utilization and how beliefs about ECEs influence use. These analyses include beliefs about the care children should receive in ECEs (e.g., about the role of ECEs in helping children learn English, or the extent to which ECEs should prepare the child for school). Analyses also explore beliefs about the desired characteristics of ECEs providers (i.e., cultural sensitivity, warmth and responsively to the child, parent-supportiveness, professionalism, and reliability). The findings of this study reveal that, although parents express the salience of structural barriers, parental beliefs relevant to ECEs utilization are the most important factors that lead this particular group of mothers to utilize or not utilize formal ECEs. Particularly, beliefs related to providers characteristics such as cultural sensitivity, and being warmth and responsively to the child. Understanding the constraints and beliefs influencing Mexican immigrant parents’ utilization of ECEs is a necessary first step toward creating better methods of informing them about the benefits of early care and education services (e.g., addressing issues of school readiness and language acquisition) and the different options available (e.g., child care centers and child care homes). Implications of the study include the need for increased facilitation of understanding among providers and families about parental expectations concerning ECEs in the U.S. and the actual existing practices. The study provides valuable information to program and policy developers that will enable them to empower immigrant parents to make their own decisions about the child care that best suits their family’s needs. This empowerment comes in the form of giving the parents educational information about different options of child care in the United States, as well as through providing information about the benefits of ECE for child development. Having clear knowledge about ECEs will allow parents to make better child care decisions. However, knowledge is not sufficient: a critical next step will be to provide resources and structural supports that Mexican immigrant families need to access formal ECEs (e.g., financial assistance, acceptable choices, and slots).
Issue Date:2012-09-18
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Maria Galarza-Heras
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-09-18
Date Deposited:2012-08

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