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Early childhood education programs as protective experiences for low-income Latino children and their families


Research is accelerating toward a deeper understanding of early childhood education (ECE) environments as protective experiences for Latino children; however, more work remains. This paper provides a review of the evidence that ECE environments benefit Latino children and mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and other poverty-related risks; however, Latino families face numerous barriers to accessing ECE opportunities for their children. While enrollment by Latino children in ECE programs has grown in prior decades, further increases in access to ECE are needed to benefit Latino children, who are disproportionately impacted by poverty. In addition, ECE programs, especially high-quality and dual generation–focused programs like Early Head Start and Head Start, are in a strong position to help offset the risk for poor educational and mental health outcomes due to Latino's children's exposure to stressors such as discrimination and ACEs. Gaps remain in how well ECE is serving Latino families due to a combination of factors including parental work schedules, heritage language and cultural factors, and the lack of affordable and available ECE programs in Latino communities. To remedy these gaps, researchers must continue to further elucidate the needs, preferences, and gaps regarding access to early care and education opportunities for Latino children. For those studying trauma and ACEs among low-income children, greater attention to how preventative interventions or treatments that are embedded in ECE settings serve Latino populations is warranted, as this has the tremendous potential to mitigate the long-term impact of ACEs on Latino children. The paper concludes with a set of early childhood practice and policy recommendations for enhancing protective experiences for low-income Latino children. (author abstract)

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