By Danielle Crosby, Ph.D., Co-Investigator of the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families
Millions of children are making the transition back to school and, for many parents, this also means finding before- and after-school care for their school-age children.
Child care research, policy, and practice discussions tend to focus on young children, but child care needs do not end with the summer break or once children enter kindergarten. In fact, coordinating work schedules and child care may become more complicated once school begins. With start times ranging from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and release times as early as 1:30 p.m., school hours often do not align with parents’ work schedules. Families with children of different ages may also have multiple schedules to coordinate.
When Out-of-School = Opportunity
Out-of-school time (OST) child care—which include informal care arrangements, school- and center-based programs, as well as extracurricular activities and lessons—can serve as a critical support to working parents, and Hispanic parents in particular. In addition to basic safety and supervision, well-implemented OST programs can benefit children—particularly low-income children— academically, socially, and emotionally. With 28 percent of Hispanic children living in food insecure households, OST programs can also be an important mechanism for promoting health and nutrition. For example, many center-based OST settings provide snacks and meals through the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program. For the 53 percent of Hispanic children living in first generation immigrant households (i.e., at least one foreign-born parent), OST programs can serve as a critical bridge between schools, families, and communities. Two Child Trends’ briefs, Enhancing Cultural Competence in Out-of-School Time Programs and Children of Latino Immigrants and Out-of-School Time Programs, offer specific ways that OST programs can provide valuable cultural and linguistic support.
However, a research report from the Afterschool Alliance notes that low-income families—in which Hispanics are over-represented—are less likely than other families to use high-quality OST programs.
Access and Utilization of School-Age Care among Hispanics
More than nine million American children between the ages of five and 14 are of Hispanic origin, a number that is only expected to grow in the coming years. National data suggest that many of these children experience a variety of out-of-school care settings on a regular basis, particularly when mothers are employed. Specifically, more than one-third of Hispanic children with working mothers spend time in non-parental care outside of school.
Similar to other racial/ethnic groups, grandparents and other relatives tend to provide the most out-of-school care for Hispanic children, followed by center-based settings, and enrichment activities (such as sports and clubs). Relatively few children spend time in non-relative, home-based care. Although estimates suggest that 29 percent of Hispanic children and youth participate in formal afterschool programs, double the level from 10 years ago, Hispanic youth remain less likely than their peers to participate in specific enrichment activities.
There is continued and unmet need for out-of-school care among Hispanics. According to the Afterschool Alliance, 57 percent of Hispanic families not currently utilizing afterschool programs say they would do so if one were available to them. Hispanic parents were more likely than white parents to identify challenges and barriers to participation, which included program availability, location and transportation issues, and cost. It is also likely that traditional afterschool programs, even when accessible and affordable, may not meet the needs of the one in four low-income Hispanic parents who work evening, night, weekend, or rotating hours.
Ironically, many of the challenges facing low-income Hispanic families—poverty, inflexible or unpredictable work schedules, discrimination, limited parental education, limited English and potential documentation issues—both increase the potential value of out-of-school programs, but also may make them more difficult to access.
Potential of the Child Care and Development Block Grant
The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is a key policy mechanism for helping low-income families access child care for children from birth to age 13, primarily through the provision of subsidies. However, Hispanic families have been less likely than white, black, or Asian families to receive these subsidies, despite being overrepresented in low-income households with working adults. Some of the same barriers that make it difficult for some Hispanic families to find or secure care when they need it, mentioned above, may also interfere with their access to subsidies.
The recent reauthorization of CCDBG offers new opportunities to increase opportunities for Hispanic school-age children and their families. Along with provisions for improving the quality, safety, and continuity of care settings, the bill gives states more flexibility (and more responsibility) to meet the needs of low-income working parents, especially those working non-standard schedules. Simplifying the process for obtaining and maintaining subsidies, and creating incentives to expand the availability of care options during non-standard hours are two promising ways the new legislation may better meet the needs of Hispanic parents. In implementing the changes, however, states should also consider the specific needs of local communities and subpopulations (e.g., immigrant Latinos).
Research Gaps and Opportunities
To meet the needs of the growing Hispanic population, more focused and in-depth research is needed on Hispanic families’ child care preferences, priorities, and experiences for school-age children. This includes how parents make decisions and access programs, and the extent to which different OST options meet child and family needs. Important to consider is the tremendous heterogeneity that exists within the Hispanic population. Factors such as nativity status, country of origin, and English language proficiency are likely to influence parents’ attitudes and preferences about OST options, and access to information and resources.