How do immigrant families get child care?

Immigrant communities rely for child care more on “family, friend and neighbor” ((FFN) than on licensed day care centers. This means that public programs to support child care, which are typically focused on licensed centers, missing much of the immigrant community.

A Migration Policy Institute study estimates that the majority of FFN caregivers have not received training or support, pointing to an acute need to expand services that are successfully reaching these caregivers. Spanish-speaking caregivers were considerably less likely to receive any kind of support than their English-speaking peers.

Other observations in the study:

One in four young children ages 5 and under in the United States lived in an immigrant family as of 2013, and one in three was a Dual Language Learner (DLL), meaning they had at least one parent who spoke a language other than English in the home. These children are disproportionately likely to be in family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care rather than in formal center-based child care.

Because of the high cost of care, a lack of multilingual staff, rigid schedules, and limited programming that is culturally and linguistically responsive, formal child-care centers historically have not fully met the needs of immigrant communities, and particularly low-income immigrant communities. FFN care is by far the most common form of nonparental care in the United States. It is estimated that 60 percent of children in the United States, or approximately 5.2 million children, are in FFN care.

As of 2012, there were 3.77 million home-based providers caring for children under age 6. While data on the demographics and immigration status of the FFN caregiver population are sparse, research suggests that over the past ten years, much of the growth in the early childhood education workforce overall has occurred among new immigrant providers, who are significantly more likely to be employed in family child care than formal centers. Approximately 30 percent of homebased providers overall speak a language other than English.

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