By CARLOS GALLEGO
AAP staff writer
MINNEAPOLIS (Nov. 12, 2012) — Minnesota Childcare Network has partnered with Think Small to conduct parent focus group to better understand how to promote quality childcare in the Hmong community.
Last year the State of Minnesota was one of nine states to win the Federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant. This award included $4 million in scholarships for low-income families tied to a preschool rating system, according to Vallay Varro, executive director of MinnCAN.
This is particularly important for communities such as Hmong and Latino where in many households a language other than English is primarily spoken. Such households tend to have preschoolers that are less ‘school ready’ than children who live in homes where English is the primary language.
Think Small and The Minnesota Child Care Resource and Referral Network acknowledge the importance of developing materials and strategies to effectively get the information in the hands of Hmong families with preschool children. They felt the results of their collaboration would yield in the development of materials and strategies to more effectively disseminate information around the importance of school readiness and quality childcare to the Hmong community.
In an effort to better educate Hmong parents with preschoolers about the importance of school readiness and quality childcare The Minnesota Child Care Resource and Referral Network (MN CCR &R) partnered with Think Small to conduct a focus group with Hmong parents.
“The Think Small team is known for their strong connections to the community, it was an ideal partnership because of this,” said Elizabeth Cooper of MN CCR & R Communications.
Sandy Myers, Director of Early Childhood Education welcomed this collaboration.
“Think Small has a 20 year history supporting access for families to and building the supply of quality early childhood care an education,” Myers said. “Our work is guided by a community advisory committee, so when gathering feedback and input to how to engage parents in Parent Aware and understand their views on child care, we already had established trust with the community.”
According to Cooper, the purpose of the focus group was: “to share information on our new child care Star Rating system, Parent Aware and to learn what parents think about this new tool. The Child Care Resource and Referral community wants to ensure that the information we put out there is meaningful to parents and meets their needs. The focus group helped us have a good conversation with the experts on this topic — parents.”
Myers saw significant benefits in undertaking this collaborative noting the importance of developing materials tailored toward the Hmong community.
“The care and education of children needs to not only meet the research based elements of how children learn, but also be a support and partner to the family,” she said. “To do that effectively, cultural values and norms have to be pivotal in the design and implementation of outreach materials or families may not see themselves and their families reflected in the services being offered.”
Myers said that even though many Hmong community members may be more proficient in reading and writing English than Hmong that orally bilingual family members will be able to share information to many important family and community members including elders, many whom are not fluent in English.
“Providing material in home language, even when many of the parents may be fluent in English, respects the multigenerational approach to child rearing of the culture,” she added.
Focus group reactions
While Cooper did not find any huge surprises in the information provided, she did find that according to the focus group participants the materials were too wordy.
Bao Vang, community outreach coordinator for Think Small, who served as one of the focus group facilitators, and concurred with Cooper. Vang said she felt the group was representative of the diverse Hmong community. She noted that invitations to participate in the focus groups were distributed by childcare providers as well as through the schools and garnered a focus group that was representative of the diversity in the Hmong community.
Vang noted that the participants ranged in age from 17 to 56, and were very comfortable in sharing information. They shared opinions on materials and recruitment strategies given the focus group facilitators, who were also Hmong, and understood the important role their input has in ensuring that materials and strategies are better geared toward the community
For more information on quality child care program rating system: http://www.parentawareratings.org.