‘HOPE’ for children of Native Americans

Project HOPE grant provides funds for Dept. of Ed, California tribes to address disparities in early learning and child care


SACRAMENTO — California is home to more American Indians than any other state in the country, but the state’s tribal population has lower median income, lower graduation rates, lower access to state’s early childhood services, and higher rates of chronic illness, childhood obesity, unemployment, and domestic violence.
But a new partnership seeks to provide native Americans hope to address disparities in early childhood learning and child care.

On Nov. 20, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson congratulated the California Department of Education and the Tribal Child Care Association of California for securing funds to address early learning disparities in tribal populations. Their Project HOPE grant provides the State of California the opportunity to strengthen its partnership with the Tribal Child Care Association of California to engage and continue work with tribes to support early learning and child care.

The association is made up of child care professionals specializing in working with tribal families, children, and communities. It focuses on the needs of tribally regulated child care and education settings both on and off tribal lands. The grant will be funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation via the BUILD Initiative.

“The State of California has never partnered with California tribes at such a deep level to support early learning,” said Torlakson. “The work funded by the Project HOPE grant builds on California’s groundbreaking memorandum of understanding with the Tribal Child Care Association of California, which was signed in November 2017 and formalized the CDE’s partnership with a group of tribal sovereign nations in California.”

This 2017 memorandum of understanding allows opportunities for staff from the CDE, the Department of Social Services, the federal Office of Child Care, and community organizations such as WestEd to meet and work with tribes on early learning and care issues.

Future work will be informed by first recognizing the trauma the California tribal population experiences as a result of past federal and state assimilation policies in addition to current inequities.

At tribal forums held in September, some participants at the forums said that there were instances in the area where toddlers must ride a bus for more than an hour for a licensed family child care setting. Others expressed a desire to further coordinate with the state to provide additional options that meet the needs of the area.

“The CDE is committed to creating equitable and culturally relevant system-wide change so all California children have a strong learning foundation, supporting the whole child for lifelong success,” said Torlakson. “With more collaboration and improved coordination, we can provide more high-quality early education services for our youngest learners.”

He added that this work aims to improve access, supply, and quality of services for remote and isolated tribal families and remove inequitable practices that have created barriers.

For more information, visit www.tribalchildcareca.org/ and watch the CDE’s Project HOPE presentation.

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