A relatively small number of the California children eligible for subsidized childcare are enrolling – but among Latino and Asian families, the share of eligible kids receiving childcare is even tinier.
More than a million Latino children in California are eligible for subsidized childcare, but according to new research from the California Budget and Policy Center, only 11 percent are enrolled. More than 100,ooo Asian children are eligible. Only about eight percent are enrolled.
Early childhood education advocate Diana Chun at Early Edge said language is a significant barrier. "Many parents who speak a different language, as well as immigrant families, face significant barriers to access," Chun said. "And eligibility and reporting requirements to access these early learning programs are burdensome for families."
Immigrant families may be particularly reluctant to try to access government services for which they qualify. "The current climate is fear for immigrant families, immigrant families may not feel safe to take part right now," Chun said.
Kristin Schumacher of the California Budget and Policy Institute, who authored the new study, said that an increase in the size of the Latino and Asian populations in California over the last decade has also made it difficult for eligible families to enroll their children in subsidized child care.
"The Latino and Asian child population age zero to 12 has been growing rapidly, and yet funding for the program is actually decreasing," Schumacher said. "So while program funding goes down, the child populations are going up, and they just aren’t accounting for the eligible kids."
That means even if more families felt comfortable navigating the red tape it takes to enroll their child in a subsidized childcare program, they might find there is ultimately no room for them.
Chun said the state must reprioritize early childhood care and education for underserved, low-income, and at-risk populations.
"We have to update and increase our investments in quality early learning so that more children can benefit from these services, which we know help prepare them academically, developmentally, and socially for school and college and careers down the line," Chun said.
"Three-year-olds do not get a do over, and it’s important that we focus on children during these early developmental years because their brain development sets the course for their life," added Schumacher. "It’s important we invest in children early because it has maximum results in the long term."