Experts Urge ‘Culturally Competent’ Programs for Educating Hispanic Families

With an already exploding population growth, Hispanic people will have a growing impact on all policy matters related to the family, and in effect, health care and education, according to a new report.

The Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institute held a forum Nov. 15 in collaboration with the Annie E. Cassey Foundation to discuss trends affecting Hispanic familiesand actions that policymakers can take to strengthen them. “The Hispanic Family in Flux,” a working paper by Roberto Suro, a professor of journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication, was released at the forum.

Suro says the growth of the Hispanic population has already slowed the decline of the two-parent parent family in the United States by addingyoung adults with a higher propensity to marry than their native-born peers, both Latino and non-Latino.

“But immigration is also producing a disproportionate number of Hispanics who are geographically separated from their spouses,” says the report. “The dynamics shaping the Hispanic family are both complex and fluid.”

Nearly three of every 10 marriages (28 percent) among foreign-born Hispanics who have come to the U.S. since 2000 have involved a spouse living geographically apart. In the 1990s, the figure was 13 percent and for those who arrived in the 1980s, it was 6 percent.

Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) pointed out that 51 percent of Latinas will become pregnant aby age 20, contributing to a high drop-out rate. “But with educational attainment, women make better choices,” said Solis. The Pew Hispanic Center has reported that the dropout rate for Latino students who attended U.S. schools is alarmingly high at 15 percent — twice as high as for Whites. That is still lower than common calculations of a Hispanic dropout rate of 30 percent or more that include many thousands of immigrants who quit school before coming to this country.

However, Suro said teen pregnancies among Latinos were linked tourban, inter-generational poverty, a  U.S. phenomenom that made Hispanics no different from the poor, urban White or Black populations.

The primary factors for the growth of the Hispanic population are immigration and high fertility among immigrants, the report said. Policies must be sensitive to the Hispanic culture, said  Dr. Rolando Diaz-Loving, professor of psychology at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.

Charles Kamasaki, the executive vice president of the National Council of La Raza, said Suro’s paper puts to rest “some of the slanders from anti-immigration policymakers,” especially regarding cultural values of immigrant families.

He said programs to encourage college participation must be a high priority among policymakers.

“There must be culturally competent programs,” Kamasaki said. “People must go to their homes and encourage college prep programs.”

Two organizations that are making outreach efforts toward are Avance and Urban Strategies, which help low-income Hispanic families through educational and counseling programs. Lisa Cummins, president of Urban Strategies reiterated the need for allocation of funds and better research.

“It is important to respect the families that want to participate in Head Start programs,” said Sylvia Garcia, president and CEO of Avance. “They want to gain access to resources, and respecting the culture will have to be part of the long-term policy.”

–Associated Press

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