Home Visiting Programs Help Latino Toddlers

Sometimes even preschool is too late to effectively intervene and boost the achievement levels of low-income Latino children.

But home visiting programs bring school into the home, and help parents become their child’s first teacher. A recent report by the Latino Policy Forum, “Primeros Pasos,” shows how such programs are making a positive difference in Illinois.

The programs are characterized by their work to improve parenting practices as well as parents’ awareness of their child’s development. They also operate as an early alert system of sorts to identify any developmental or health challenges. They also may prevent child abuse and set children on track toward greater success in school.

“Home visiting programs are generally targeted toward those families who are most at risk for adverse outcomes, like teen parents. And home visiting can begin prenatally to coach and equip young parents in how to support their child’s health development,” the report’s author, Jacob Vigil, told WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

The study also suggests that strong home visiting programs are often those that receive state funding support.

The Early Head Start home visiting program works with children under the age of three. Yuri Gutierrez has two young children in the program and told WTTW that one of the biggest things she learned was the importance of reading to them.

The Latino Policy Forum makes a number of other recommendations on how to improve early childhood learning. They include increasing the number of bilingual early learning educators and providing more training opportunities to such individuals.

They also recommend improving awareness among Latino parents about the importance of early learning and parent involvement. In addition, they encourage the collection of data on infants and toddlers and the service providers that work with such children.

Even the report focuses on Illinois, it is worth a read and could easily be applied to the rest of the nation.

Related Links:

“Early Education in the Latino Community,” Chicago Tonight, WTTW.

“Primeros Pasos: Strengthening Programs that Support Illinois Infants and Toddlers,” Latino Policy Forum.

Home Visiting Campaign, The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Report Offers Portrait of Latino Infants and Toddlers

A recent report offers a snapshot of how Latino infants and toddlers are faring compared to their peers.

The McCormick Foundation and Child Trends offer some insights through the report, “The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States.”

Among the most concerning findings — Latino toddlers are half as likely to be read to as their white peers. Additionally, they are a third less likely to be sung to or have stories told to them, another indicator that assists with language development.

Tellingly, Hispanic parents also are much more likely than white parents to be concerned about their young children’s development.

Hispanic toddlers and infants also are very likely to experience frequent moves between new homes as children. They are less likely to receive preventive medical care.

The report offers a myriad of statistics in a variety of different areas, which includes occurrence of asthma, parent education levels, and teen birthrates.

Related Links:

“The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States,” McCormick Foundation and Child Trends.

“New Study Shines Light on Inequalities Among America’s Youngest Children,” McCormick Foundation News Release.

Report Measures Trends in Child Well-Being

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its annual Kids Count report evaluating child well-being in the United States.

The report delves into areas such as economic security, education, health, and family and community. The online resources are comprehensive — offering the national and state-by-state perspective, in addition to data broken out by race and ethnicity.

According to the report, small gains have been made in the areas of education and health. However, income inequality and high unemployment are hurting well-being.

The report stresses that high-quality preschool programs can improve academic outcomes for children. However, only about 46 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are in preschool.

The child poverty rate was about 23 percent in 2011, with the youngest children being the poorest. The report defined the poverty line as $22,811 for two adults and two children.

According to the report, child well-being can be improved with more programs that teach parents how to be their child’s first teacher and offering more high-quality preschool programs.

The report reported further data, and here are some interesting statistics about Latino children:

– ABout 63 percent of Hispanic three- and four-year-old children were not attending preschool — more than any other group.

– About 34 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty in 2011.

– About 39 percent of Hispanic children had parents lacking secure employment in 2011.

– About 11 percent of Hispanic teens were not in school or not working in 2011.

– About 29 percent of Hispanic high school students did not graduate on time in 2009-10.

– About 42 percent of Hispanic children were in single-parent homes in 2011.

The states were also ranked based on well-being, with New Mexico ranked last overall. Other states with significant Latino populations included Arizona (47), California (41), Florida (38), Illinois (23), New York (29) and Texas (42).

Related Links:

2013 Kids Count Data Book, Annie E. Casey Foundation

Research Shows Poor Children Lag Early in Language Skills

A new study shows that as early as 18 months old, children from poor families understand words much more slowly than those from affluent families. Previous studies have had similar findings in children of older ages.

The study by Stanford University psychologists was recently published in the journal Developmental Science. The psychologists tested a group of 20 babies at 18 months old by how they identified objects based on language. They were evaluated on accuracy and time. They were then retested six months later.

The language activities included being shown pictures of a dog and a ball and then being directed to “look at the ball.” Less affluent children were slower to look at the ball. The speed at which the children identified objects reflected an achievement gap that persisted later. Children who recognized words more quickly had larger vocabularies and scored higher on standardized tests once they reached school age.

According to researchers, parent surveys showed that between 18 months and 2 years old, the affluent children added 260 words to their vocabulary, while poorer children lagged by 30 percent.

“By 2 years of age, these disparities are equivalent to a six-month gap between infants from rich and poor families in both language processing skills and vocabulary knowledge,” Stanford psychology professor Anne Fernald said in Stanford Today. “What we’re seeing here is the beginning of a developmental cascade, a growing disparity between kids that has enormous implications for their later educational success and career opportunities.”

Fernald is also involved in research related to development of Hispanic infants who are learning Spanish and English.

Related Links:

“Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K,” The New York Times.

“Language Gap Between Rich and Poor Children Begins in Infancy, Stanford Psychologists Find,” Stanford Report.

The Challenge for Latino Children in Illinois

The Chicago Public Schools have faced numerous difficulties in the past year: school closures, neighborhood violence and persistently high dropout rates. Latino children make up about 44 percent of the district’s enrollment.

On the Huffington Post Latino Voices blog, Latino Policy Forum Executive Director Sylvia Puente writes about the conditions in Chicago and Illinois, noting last year’s struggles.

“The eyes of the nation were fixed on our corner of Illinois — not just to follow the controversy, but also because as one of the country’s global, diverse cities, Chicago is [a] litmus test of educational realities across the country,” she writes.

Puente writes that improving outcomes for Latino children depends on increasing access to quality preschool programs. Additionally, as Illinois phases in required bilingual education for English Language Learners in preschool, more training is needed for teachers. Lastly, Latino students need access to quality teachers and more Latino teachers.

“Understanding the issues is step one,” Puente writes. “But action — in the form of investments in increased access to quality early care and education in Latino neighborhoods, resources for teachers to pursue linguistic credentials, and strong teacher preparation programs that encourage diverse talent in the profession — is critical, in Chicago, in Illinois, and across the country.”

Read more here.

Related Links:

– “Chicago’s Next Education Crisis Isn’t Limited to Chicago — Here’s Why,” The Huffington Post Latino Voices.

– Latino Policy Forum.

Head Start Cuts Will Impact Many Latino Children

Federal spending cuts due to sequestration are expected to eliminate Head Start services for more than 57,000 children across the country, including thousands of Latino children enrolled in the programs.

About 37 percent of all children in Head Start are Latino.  The largest numbers of children predicted to be impacted reside within two states where Hispanic children make up the majority of public school students — California and Texas.

The severity of the cuts became apparent after programs submitted their planned cuts to the government. The cuts also will result in fewer class days and teacher layoffs in some programs.

The National Head Start Association has an interactive online tool that lets users find out information on a state-by-state basis.

Related Links:

– “Latinos Among Those Hit the Hardest By Head Start Cuts,” NBC Latino.

– “Feds: Spending Cuts Mean 57,000 Fewer Low-Income Children in Head Start Programs,” The Washington Post.

– “Sequestration Hits Poor Hispanics Hard,” The Washington Post.

– “National Sequestration Impact”, National Head Start Association.

Kids Count Report Measures Hispanic Children’s Well-Being

Latino children still have the lowest preschool attendance rate of any racial or ethnic group, The Annie E. Casey Foundation annual 2013 Kids Count report has found.

Between 2009 and 2011, about 63 percent of Hispanic children did not attend preschool, compared with 50 percent of white children.

The annual report measures the well-being of children across the nation, and provides a wealth of additional information on key indicators. It provides state-by-state information. Between 2005 and 2011, the child poverty rate increased from 19 percent to 23 percent.

The Associated Press reported that while education and health indicators are improving, economic indicators worsened.

“We hope as we go forward we’ll see continued improvement,” Patrick McCarthy, president of the Casey Foundation, told The Washington Post. “But we’re concerned about the longterm impact of the recession. Research suggests that children who spend extended periods of time in poverty are more likely to drop out of school, become pregnant and are less likely to [find permanent] work. Over the long term, they have a tough time transitioning to adulthood.”

Some additional information provides further context on the population:

– In 2011, about 34 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty, compared with 14 percent of white children. The national average was 23 percent.

– Hispanic children were by far the most likely of any racial or ethnic group to have a head of household who lacked a high school diploma, as of 2011. About 37 percent of Hispanic children fell under this category, compared with 6 percent of white children.

– About 29 percent of Hispanic students did not graduate on time in 2009-10, compared with 17 percent of white students.

– In 2011, about 13 percent of Hispanic children did not have health insurance, compared with 5 percent of white children.

– About 42 percent of Hispanic children lived in single-parent homes in 2011, compared with 25 percent of white children.

Additionally, some states with significant Hispanic populations struggled. For the second year in a row, Nevada was ranked dead last in education. Additionally, New Mexico ranked worst in the nation in child well-being, after it was found that about 30 percent of children there are living in poverty.

Related Links:

KIDS COUNT 2013 Report

– “Report: Economic well-being of US children slips,” Associated Press. 

– “Children living in poverty longer, putting their futures at risk,” The Washington Post.

Study Suggests Junk Food Ads Contribute to Latino Youth Obesity

Latino children view about 12 food and beverage television ads a day, says a study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggesting that such viewership could be related to high obesity rates among the group.

The researchers used Nielsen data on Spanish-language and English-language television viewership to conduct their study, which analyzed the viewing habits of children ages two to 17. In 2010, Hispanic preschoolers (ages 2 to 5) watched 4,218 ads, children (ages 6 to 11) watched 4,373, and adolescents (12 to 17) watched 4,542 ads.

“Given higher rates of obesity and overweight for Hispanic youth, it is important to understand the amount and types of food advertising they view,” said a team led by Frances Fleming-Milici of Yale University, according to a JAMA news release.

Hispanic children tend to watch fewer food ads than other children daily and Spanish-language television features fewer ads. However, about half of the food ads shown on Spanish television were for products such as fast food, candy and cereals.

In fact, Hispanic children and adolescents watched 14 percent and 24 percent fewer food ads than non-Hispanic youth.

But Hispanic preschoolers ages two to five were more likely to watch Spanish-language television, so they were exposed at an early age to a disproportionate number of ads for unhealthy foods. They also were exposed to the most Spanish-language food ads. They watched 1,038 Spanish food ads in 2010.

It’s important to point out that Hispanic children are underrepresented in pre-K programs, as compared with black and white children. Unfortunately, they may be watching more television in place of attending school.

“Although Hispanic children and adolescents see somewhat fewer of these ads, the higher obesity rates among Hispanic youth, the greater exposure by Hispanic preschoolers, and the potential enhanced effects of targeted advertising on Hispanic youth suggest that this exposure may pose additional risks for Hispanic youth,” the JAMA Pediatrics article said.

Related Links:

– “Junk Food Ads May Help Drive Obesity in Hispanic kids, Study Suggests,” US News and World Report/Health Day.

– “Study suggests link between food commercials and obesity in Latino youth,” 89.3 KPCC.

– “Amount of Hispanic Youth Exposure to Food and Beverage Advertising on Spanish- and English- Language Television,” JAMA Pediatrics.

U.S. Education Secretary Promotes Pre-K for Latinos

This week during a meeting with journalists, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan raised concerns about the low enrollment rates of Latino children in preschool.

“Less than half of Hispanic children attend any kind of preschool — that’s kind of staggering,” Duncan said Wednesday, according to an article in The Washington Post. “This is the fastest-growing population and a lower-than-average participation rate.”

According to The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report, about 63 percent of Hispanics who were three and four year olds between 2008 and 2010 did not attend preschool. That’s a lower rate than the 53 percent average of students not attending preschool. It also was the lowest rate when compared with Asian, white, black, and Native American children.

Duncan said the roots of the problem can be attributed to challenges such as a lack of access to preschool, but also because Latino families are reluctant to enroll their children.

According to the Learning the Language blog, Duncan shared that when he led the Chicago Public Schools, evening kindergarten classes between 3-6 p.m. were offered in Latino communities where there were waiting lists for earlier classes.

“People thought we were crazy,” Duncan said, according to the blog. “But we had a huge take-up on that. You have to be creative about how you provide the opportunities.”

Duncan’s comments come as President Obama pushes for universal preschool for 4-year-olds. In his proposed budget, he wants the federal government to help pay for preschool for the states by increasing the federal tobacco tax. According to the Post, that could generate $75 billion over ten years.

A separate Washington Post article reported that several hundred business leaders sent a letter to Congress and the White House supporting more federal spending on preschool.

Related Links:

– “Duncan: More Hispanic children need to enroll in preschool,” The Washington Post .

– “Business community shows support for preschool expansion in letter for Obama,” The Washington Post.

– “Education secretary says preschool is key for Latino success,” NBC Latino.

– “Arne Duncan Touts Advantages of Bilingualism,” Learning the Language Blog/Education Week.

– “Report: Fewer than Half of U.S. Children Attend Preschool,” Early Years Blog.

Ads Promote Autism Awareness Among Latinos

A new ad campaign from the group Autism Speaks is reaching out to Latino and African-American parents to generate greater awareness about autism and encourage earlier identification.

The “Maybe”  PSA campaign includes TV and print ads in both English and Spanish. The ads outline key warning signs and behaviors a child with autism may exhibit, such as a preoccupation with objects and avoiding eye contact.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study showing large increases in the number of Latino and black children identified as autistic. The CDC estimated that there were about 7.9 diagnosed cases of autism per 1,000 Latino children, an increase of 110% over 2002. Despite that increase, prevalence is much higher among white (12.0) and black (10.2) children. The report noted that the wide variation between groups could be attributed to awareness levels in the communities.

The average age of diagnosis is four to five years. But the average age of diagnosis is higher among Latino, black and low-income children.

“Earlier diagnosis [is] so important because if we can get a child by 2 years old, in most cases, with help that child can go to regular kindergarten,” Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, told NBC Latino. “The window between 2-5 years old is the most important time to deal with treatment.”

Related Links:

– “Aiming Autism Ads at Hispanic and African-American Parents,” The New York Times.

– “Autism Cases Identified Among Hispanic Children on the Rise, CDC Says,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Autism Speaks launches new campaign to reach Latino, black parents,” NBC Latino.

– “Prevalence of Austin Spectrum DIsorders in Hispanic and non-Hispanic White Children,” Pediatrics.

– Autism Speaks