Project Type: Core Feasibility Education/Outreach
Project Description: ECMHSP/NCDS operates four Migrant Head Start Centers that provide and coordinate culturally relevant and developmentally appropriate early childhood education, health (physical, dental, mental health and nutrition), transportation, and social services for up to 540 migrant children ages birth to compulsory school age and their families. Families harvest sweet potatoes, tobacco, cucumbers, blueberries, tomatoes, nursery work, small vegetables, melons, grapes, reforestation, and other crops. Most families (84%) are intact, two-parent families who have recently migrated from Mexico and are young, poor and highly mobile, sometimes moving 3-4 times a year to follow the crops. The majority have grown up in traditional families, working in the fields, with few opportunities for formal education. Thirty-five percent of parents report having less than eight years of schooling and 5.2% haven't attended school at all. Many parent s are functionally illiterate in their native language of Spanish and most report speaking English “not well” or “not at all.”
Increasingly, families are also speaking indigenous dialects such as Mixteco, Zapoteco, and Mam, many of which are non-written. In 2006, at least 20% of families served reported by NCDS spoke an indigenous dialect as their primary language. This emerging trend presents a growing communication challenge when staff do not speak these languages and there are no translation services currently available. Further, staff are not familiar with tools and resources that might facilitate more meaningful interactions with families.
The following goals and objectives were completed to learn more about staff and parent communications and to find ways in which to close this communication gap:
- A 20-minute Spanish-language survey was developed and piloted to administer with at least 100 parents at four migrant head start centers (25 per center). The survey was given orally and individually to each parent interviewed. Information was collected about:
- languages spoken among families;
- families’ oral, reading and speaking capacity in these languages;
- families’ experiences communicating with head start center staff;
- families’ suggestions about ways in which the head start centers can improve communication between families and the head start center staff.
- A 30-minute English-language survey was developed, piloted, and administered with the core staff at all four head start centers. The survey was given orally and individually to each interviewed staff member. Information was collected about:
- the languages spoken by the staff;
- their knowledge of languages spoken among families;
- staff’s knowledge of families’ oral, reading and speaking capacity in these languages;
- staff’s experiences communicating with families;
- needs of head start center staff to facilitate more effective communication with families.
Short Summary and Resources
Poster: Closing the Communication Gap: Indigenous Languages Spoken by Migrant Head Start Families in Eastern North Carolina