Colleen K. Vesely
Mark R. Ginsberg
Publication Date
March 1, 2014

George Mason University

"...[T]he goal of this study, which was conducted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) with support from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, was to add to researchers’ and practitioners’ understanding of how early childhood education (ECE) programs are currently working with immigrant children and families."

This study was designed to contribute to developing an accurate picture of ECE offered to immigrant families in the United States and in Eastern Europe in order to develop recommendations for ECE programmes as '"a crucial aspect of immigrant families’ integration into and inclusion within new societies." The study considers the situation of children (birth to age 8) born to immigrant parents who cross international borders, whether the children are born outside or within the families' new location. Though ECE "may be home-based; family, friend or neighbor care (FFN); or center-based," the study considers center-based care recognised for quality that is regulated: "For example, in the United States, this baseline level of quality was achieving accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The programs visited in Eastern Europe were designated by local ECE experts as high-quality programs."

The study includes: a literature review on migrant patterns and ECE; insights on migrant family life; characteristics of ECE most important for immigrant children and families; and a theoretical framework for understanding of immigrant children’s and families’ experiences in ECE settings. "Using qualitative case study methodology, including in-depth interviews with teachers, program staff, and parents as well as field observations in ECE programs in the United States and in Eastern Europe, analyses were conducted with respect to how high-quality programs work with immigrant families." The analysis was done through qualitative analyses of the interview transcripts and field observation notes. "The results of this study provide the foundation for a conceptual framework for 'fullservice' ECE programs, guiding the multilevel recommendations we propose for policy, practice, and future research."

Page 48 has a chart of recommendations for classrooms, programmers, communities, and policymakers. Recommendations include the following:

  • Strengthening Quality and Increasing Access to ECE - including: through professional development and through training practitioners (teachers, assistant teachers, and care providers) to understand practices appropriate for immigrant populations and outreach to local communities including play groups and door-to-door recruitment campaigns in the surrounding neighbourhoods using immigrant language materials.
  • Building Relationships with Parents and Families - including: staff and staff time dedicated to building relationships with families and linking to other services.
  • Parents’ Identity Development and Community Representation - including: ECE organisations that can facilitate parents’ own development by: encouraging parents to assist and/or observe in the classroom; discussing with parents their parenting, employment, and personal goals and following up to assist them in participating in the community; and supporting funding for their access to community resources.
  • Staff Development and Well-being - including, for staff and teachers, professional development within and outside the classroom and group training and coursework focused on topics such as race, cultural competence, and implementation of ECE and curricula for English language learner (ELL) children. Also, ECE programmes can recognise the stress in their professional staff and celebrate, as well as give support for, the work that the staff does with all children, including immigrant populations.

"Four principles or themes emerged as particularly important for working with immigrant families: (1) improving quality of and access to ECE programs for immigrant families, (2) building relationships with immigrant parents and families, (3) supporting immigrant parents’ identity development and representation in their communities, and (4) fostering staff dynamics, development, and well-being. Each of these is explored individually in the report, in terms of dynamics as well as recommendations for ECE programs currently working with immigrant families."


Bernard van Leer Foundation website, May 21 2014. Image credit: Susan Woog Wagner