Challenges in Accessing Early Childhood Education and Care for Children in Refugee Families in Massachusetts
For refugee households, stable child-care arrangements are a key underpinning of working parents’ employment success and family self-sufficiency, and thus an important goal of refugee case management. Given the well-documented impact of early learning services on children’s school readiness and long-term cognitive, socioemotional, and educational outcomes, access to high-quality, consistent early childhood education and care (ECEC) is critical for those from minority and low-income families (including immigrant and refugee families), who are often at greatest risk of falling behind. Despite these established benefits, studies suggest that young children of immigrants or refugees are much less likely than children of U.S.-born parents to access center- and family-based ECEC services.
Massachusetts has been an innovator in ECEC policy: the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (MDEEC), created in 2005, was the first state agency dedicated to coordinating the myriad parts of the ECEC system to enhance the quality, consistency, and oversight of service delivery across the licensed child-care system. At the same time, state funding for early childhood education in Massachusetts fell 20 percent between 2001 and 2016, after accounting for inflation.
This report examines how refugee families in Massachusetts access ECEC services for their children through the refugee resettlement system. Based on a detailed review of the literature and of stakeholder interviews with refugee-serving organizations, state social services agencies, ECEC service providers, and others, the report explores two topics. First, it examines how working parents in refugee families navigate and make use of ECEC services. Second, it looks at the institutional and systemic challenges that refugee families face in accessing stable, high-quality ECEC options. These include both a complex, multiagency process with unclear lines of institutional responsibility as well as limited mechanisms for collaboration and information sharing across agencies.
II. Accessing Early Childhood Education and Care Services in the United States
III. Refugee Resettlement and Access to Child Care in Massachusetts
A. Refugee Arrival Trends in the United States and Massachusetts
B. The Massachusetts Refugee Resettlement System and Child-Care Placements
IV. State Stakeholders and System Challenges
A. Methodology and Data Sources
V. Information, Linkage, and Alignment Recommendations
A. Existing Program and Policy Models
B. Program and Policy Recommendations