In my work, I interchangeably use the terms “Hispanic” and “Latinx/e” to refer to individuals whose cultural background originated in Latin American and/or Spanish-speaking countries or are descendants of persons from those countries. I want to acknowledge that Hispanic or Latinx/e individuals in the United States represent diverse countries of origin with unique histories and cultures. Hereafter, I will use “Hispanic” to describe this population.
Over recent decades, the racial-ethnic demographic composition of children in the United States has rapidly shifted, with Hispanic children largely contributing to these changes. Only 9% of U.S. children were Hispanic in 1980; today, over a quarter of children are Hispanic, and by 2050, it is predicted that nearly one in every three children will be Hispanic. This represents a dramatic increase in the number of those who are eligible for early care and education (ECE). In response to this rapidly growing population, new lines of research have emerged to inform and advance practices and policies that support Hispanic children and families’ well-being.
Recent studies consistently demonstrate that participation in high-quality ECE programs is beneficial for Hispanic children’s academic, developmental, and family outcomes; and in some instances, such programs serve as a protective factor in mitigating adversity or negative experiences among Hispanic children and families. As this evidence continues to mount, some researchers have shifted their priorities to focus on linkages between Hispanic children and families’ enrollment in ECE and their well-being in the challenging landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tumultuous nature of the pandemic has corresponded with new studies unpacking hardships experienced by Hispanic children and families; these studies are often grounded in a deficit viewpoint. While researchers are building a much-needed knowledge base, the use of a strengths-based view is essential for uncovering protective factors, like engaging in ECE programs, that may serve as a buffer for Hispanic children and families from the challenges of the pandemic.