Child care options for immigrant and English language learner (ELL) families in Philadelphia are limited because of challenges of income, transportation, culture, and language.
Immigrant and ELL families often cannot afford quality child care. Many are unaware that they may be eligible for subsidies through Child Care Information Services (CCIS).
“The biggest barrier is families knowing that we’re here,” said Norma Finkelstein, executive director of CCIS Northeast, one of five offices in the city. She said some immigrants who are aware don’t apply because they are not citizens; yet only the child needs to be a citizen for the family to be eligible.
At the same time, there is a long waiting list because subsidy money is inadequate to cover everyone who qualifies.
The CCIS offices can still be a resource: “We can still help [them] get a better idea of what … kids need to do well in school,” Finkelstein said.
While parents interviewed by the Notebook all said they wanted their children to be successful, they had different ideas on childrearing practices and on cultural and language preservation vs. assimilation.
“There is always pressure for newly arrived [immigrants] to be able to integrate as fast as possible,” said Thoai Nguyen, CEO of the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition (SEAMAAC).
In any case, bilingual child care options are few. Parents who can’t afford transportation may be forced to rely on lower-quality neighborhood options.
Child care centers have been slow to adapt to cultural and religious practices of immigrant communities, especially around toileting and food, added Cynthia Kreilick of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children. “There are some really specific practices that early educators need to understand,” she said.
Different groups also vary widely in literacy and education levels, which affect their ability to take advantage of available services, creating a divide “between those who know how to take advantage of the services in the United States and those [who don’t],” Kreilick added.
Here are portraits of five immigrants living in Philadelphia and the child care choices they made: