E.g., 12/07/2022
E.g., 12/07/2022
Overlooked but Essential: Language Access in Early Childhood Programs

One-third of U.S. children ages 0 to 5 are Dual Language Learners (DLLs), meaning they have at least one parent who speaks a language other than English at home. These children speak an increasingly diverse range of languages and have the potential to thrive as multilingual and multicultural individuals, given the right support. But while years of research have shown that DLLs benefit disproportionately from early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs, the evidence also shows they enroll in such programs at lower rates than other young children.

Related Resources

Other resources produced by MPI's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy as part of this project include:

  • A set of state fact sheets exploring the characteristics of DLLs and their families in the 25 states with the largest DLL populations

Language can play an important role in a program’s accessibility. Nearly half of all DLLs have a parent who is Limited English Proficient (LEP), and LEP parents may find it difficult to identify and enroll their children in ECEC programs and communicate with staff on a day-to-day basis. Language access policies and services that facilitate these families’ participation in a language they speak are a prerequisite to promoting DLLs’ equitable participation.

This policy brief explores federal and state efforts to implement language access policies in major ECEC programs: the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG); the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program; Head Start; and state pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs. It also discusses evidence of disparities in access to these programs and highlights opportunities to improve language access across early childhood services.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  Linguistic Diversity among Families with DLLs

3  Language Access Requirements Affecting ECEC Programs
A. Child Care Development Block Grant
B. Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program
C. Head Start
D. State Pre-K

4  Evidence of Disparities in Access
A. Child Care Development Block Grant
B. Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program
C. Head Start
D. State Pre-K

5  Recommendations and Conclusion