Child Care and Early Childhood Education: More Information Sharing and Program Review by HHS Could Enhance Access for Families with Limited English Proficiency
Questions have been raised about whether parents with limited English proficiency are having difficulty accessing child care and early education programs for their children. Research suggests that quality early care experiences can greatly improve the school readiness of young children. GAO was asked to provide information on (1) the participation of these children in programs funded through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) and Head Start, (2) the challenges these families face in accessing programs, (3) assistance that selected state and local entities provide to them, and (4) actions taken by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure program access. To obtain this information, GAO analyzed program and national survey data, interviewed officials in 5 states and 11 counties, held 12 focus groups with mothers with limited English proficiency, and interviewed experts and HHS officials.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Office of the Child Care Bureau||To help state and local agencies plan for language assistance and assess whether they provide meaningful access to eligible children, regardless of their parents' English ability, CCB should work with states to help them explore cost-effective strategies for collecting data on CCDF subsidy recipients' language preference or English proficiency and comparing these data with available information on community demographics. Once these data are available, HHS may consider collecting information on existing cost-effective ways for agencies to provide language assistance and to recruit providers who speak other languages, as well as disseminating this information in the locations where the data show the greatest need.||
In 2007, ACF funded three Child Care Policy Research Grants to examine issues related to preferences and access to child care and subsidies of language minority populations. In 2008, ACF hosted the Language Minority Roundtable to engage in dialogue on how research can support policymakers and practitioners to serve the language/literacy needs of young children and their families. Through contracts and cooperative agreements, ACF has supported several websites in Spanish for states and families (e.g., www.childcare.gov, www.childcareaware.org/sp, and nccic.acf.hhs.gov/spanish/index.html). ACF also points to contractors' and grantees' development of consumer information and education publications in Spanish and subscription to a service offering translation capabilities. ACF reported that in FY09 it is awarding a cooperative agreement for the creation of a Center for Research in Early Care and Education to focus on dual language learners (DLLs) from birth through 5 years of age and their families. The Center, ACF reported, will identify and advance best practices and strategies in early care and education programming to support young DLLs and to effectively support their families. Center-based and home-based programs and family child care providers are included in the settings to be examined. ACF reports that children in families who speak languages other than English, with low-income status and/or social disadvantages, such as limited educational attainment or residence in economically disadvantaged areas, will receive particular attention.
|Department of Health and Human Services||To provide opportunities to parents with limited English proficiency to access federal child care subsidies for their children, HHS should develop and implement specific steps to review whether and how states provide access to CCDF programs for eligible children of parents with limited English proficiency, as well as provide information to help states evaluate their progress in this area. Specifically, HHS should revise the CCDF plan template to require states to report on how they will provide meaningful access to parents with limited English proficiency seeking CCDF subsidies for their children.||
ACF revised the 2008-09 and 2010-2011 Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) plan templates requiring states to describe how the Lead Agency reaches out and provides services to eligible families with limited English proficiency, including how the Lead Agency overcomes language barriers with families and providers.
|Department of Health and Human Services||To provide opportunities to parents with limited English proficiency to access federal child care subsidies for their children, HHS should develop and implement specific steps to review whether and how states provide access to CCDF programs for eligible children of parents with limited English proficiency, as well as provide information to help states evaluate their progress in this area. Specifically, HHS should systematically review states' program eligibility criteria for CCDF subsidies to ensure that states comply with HHS policies related to participation by children of parents with limited English proficiency.||
ACF published a summary of the broad range of activities that states reported in their 2008-09 state plans as means of outreach and service provision for eligible families with limited English proficiency (see http://nccic.acf.hhs.gov/pubs/stateplan2008-09/part4.pdf).