Parents fearful of detention and deportation, a fear heightened by recent actions by the federal government, have been pulling their kids out of preschool and refusing health services their children are legally eligible to receive, according to First 5 LA, a childhood advocacy organization and issuer of and public grant.
Informing and education the public of its rights and available services has become a priority issue of the organization throughout Los Angeles County.
“Against the backdrop of recent immigration announcements from Washington, we know that both parents and children are struggling and this impacts LA County’s kids and families. All families, including immigrant families, have a right to engage with the public systems that exist to serve their health, education and caregiving needs,” said Kim Belshé, executive director of First 5 LA.
“Our commitment is to strengthen all families and improve outcomes for (italics) all (italics end) children. That’s why we are taking several steps in partnership with others to help parents understand their continued rights to receive services for their young children. Here in Los Angeles, we stand up for kids.”
One in six California children has at least one parent residing in the U.S. unlawfully from either an expired visa or illegal border crossing, according to the Migration Policy Institute. And a recent study by the Center for American Progress estimates there are approximately 200,000 children who are U.S. citizens with parents who receive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections.
“Children born in the U.S. are citizens eligible for access to early education programs and health care services,” said Sandra Gutierrez, founder and national director of Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors. “What we have seen in L.A. County is parents choosing not to take their young children to school or use vital services because of immigration fears. It is disheartening to consider the long-term effects these fears will have on our children’s future, and it is important to address the impacts locally.”
According to The Children’s Partnership and California Immigration Policy Center, immigrant families already faced barriers to enrolling in programs and accessing services for their children before the Trump Administration’s actions. Parents often do not apply because they fear that enrolling a child in public programs could affect their application for legal status or could allow personal information to be shared with immigration authorities.
Recognizing the short and long-term effects on young children, First 5 LA has announced several steps it is taking to address the impact of immigration fears on young children, including:
• Joining 200 philanthropic institutions representing local, state, regional and national foundations from across the country by signing the bipartisan Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) Joint Statement.
• Contributing to a project led by the California Community Foundation to ensure organizations serving young children and their families (early care and education providers, home visitors, WIC staff) have the necessary information to reassure clients about protection of their information and the importance of continuing to utilize the public resources available to their families.
• Joining First 5 Commissions across the state to distribute a helpful resource guide titled, “Care, Cope, Connect” developed by Sesame Street Workshop to help parents initiate conversations with their children about community stress and separation.
• Exploring, through its Best Start Communities effort, partnerships with trusted community-based organizations to help them better respond to the needs of the immigrant community with their existing resources. These organizations are not immigration rights or legal providers, but in their daily interaction with the immigrant community, these groups are often asked to provide additional resources and information.
• Examining what role First 5 LA can play in providing adequate outreach and response to support the upcoming 2020 Census. The data gathered by the Census is critical to First 5 LA’s current and future programming and planning efforts.
To read the Joint Foundation Statement on Immigration, visit www.gcir.org/joint-foundation-statement-immigration. To download the PDF version of the “Care, Cope, Connect” resource guide, visit http://www.first5la.org/parenting/articles/immigration-resources/.
First 5 LA is a leading early childhood advocacy and public grantmaking organization created by California voters to invest Proposition 10 tobacco tax revenues in Los Angeles County. Please visit www.first5la.org for more information.