Many Latino children who are not yet of school age do not attend preschool–they spend their days in the care of family members, friends or neighbors.
PASO targets Spanish-speaking childcare providers who care for children ages zero to 5 in their homes. The program works with providers who have little or no training in early childhood education. The goal is to provide them enough training so they can better prepare children for school and future academic success.
PASO is modeled after the Child Development Associate program, and includes 130 hours of training over a 15-month period. The training deals with topics including cognitive, language, social and motor skills.
The women also receive home visits from mentors known as “tias” (aunts) twice a month, to check on their progress with the children, each of which lasts about 90 minutes.
One example is Mexican immigrant Cecilia Carro, who watches her grandson Charlie and four other children.
“Since I’ve arrived here, I’ve always taken care of kids,” she told KUNC radio. “They grow up; younger ones come to take their place.”
Despite her years of caring for children, before she took part in the PASO program, she didn’t think about reading or teaching activities. Now, things have changed. She tries to focus on writing, reading and making crafts.
Programs such as this one are especially important given the recent emphasis on the importance of early education. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, between 2008 and 2010 about 63 percent of Hispanic three- and four-year olds were not in pre-K programs.
I found PASO an interesting twist on programs that work with Hispanic immigrant mothers to teach them how to become their child’s first teacher (such as AVANCE and HIPPY). The instruction models are very similar. But this program takes into account the fact that many immigrant mothers work. The mothers then turn to informal childcare providers who provide care for free or at a low cost, because they can’t afford professional daycare services.
“We have to meet families where they are, that’s the key,” Jeannine Truswell, president of the United Way of Weld County, told KUNC. “As agencies and organizations, we can’t expect to be sitting here and have people come to us.”