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"A place where my children could learn to read, write, and play’: The search for early care and education among undocumented Central American immigrant mothers


Access to high quality early care and education (ECE) is particularly valuable, but often most elusive, for young children and families situated on the margins of society, including many Latinx immigrant families facing income insecurity, discrimination, and limited access to resources due to documentation status. This study used a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to examine the various ECE-related experiences and perspectives of 55 undocumented immigrant mothers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Participant mothers of young children completed a qualitative open-ended child care history narrative as part of a larger interviewer-assisted survey. Our findings suggest that participants, who faced multiple constraints including income insecurity and undocumented status, were purposeful and planful in attempting to access good quality ECE for their children, focusing on safety, learning, and their children's unique needs. However, accessing and sustaining good quality ECE for their young children was often an ongoing struggle throughout the early childhood years. This study provides greater understanding about the ways immigrant families with young children adapt to ECE challenges and broader societal inequities and discusses implications for ECE service delivery in relation to diverse mixed-status Central American (CA) immigrant families. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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