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Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth


Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR)—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Through its network of nearly 300 affiliated communitybased organizations, NCLR reaches millions of Hispanics each year in 41 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. To achieve its mission, NCLR conducts applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy, providing a Latino perspective in five key areas—assets/investments, civil rights/immigration, education, employment and economic status, and health. In addition, it provides capacity-building assistance to its Affiliates who work at the state and local level to advance opportunities for individuals and families. Founded in 1968, NCLR is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization headquartered in Washington, DC. NCLR serves all Hispanic subgroups in all regions of the country and has regional offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, and San Antonio.

Copyright © 2011 by the National Council of La Raza Raul Yzaguirre Building 1126 16th Street, NW, Suite 600 Washington, DC 20036-4845 | (202) 785-1670 Printed in the United States of America. All rights reserved.


Acknowledgments The National Council of La Raza would like to thank The Atlantic Philanthropies, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and a funder who wishes to remain anonymous for their support of the forum, Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth. This publication would not have been possible without their support.

Table of Contents Introduction


Overview of the Forum


Welcome and Introductory Remarks


We also wish to thank the speakers whose inspiring words contributed to this publication.

Latino Children in the U.S.: From Numbers to Stories


Environmental Factors Affecting the Well-Being of Latino Children: Health and Poverty


Luncheon Speakers


Opportunities and Threats to Our Children’s Future: Education and Juvenile Justice





Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Introduction The United States has a long history of protecting the most vulnerable in society; since the mid-1800s, the public and the government have recognized the need to ensure that our nation’s children* are educated, fed, and housed. While a commitment to ensuring the welfare of children is codified through state and federal laws, government agencies, and public programs, Latino† children are often ill-served due to a number of barriers, shutting them—and, by extension, our larger society—out of opportunities to reach their full potential. The Latino child population is the fastest-growing segment of the population. As such, it is imperative to thoroughly examine the strengths and weaknesses of the existing infrastructure of programs that serve children and take steps to bolster the system to ensure that it complements the efforts of Latino parents and the community at large. Doing so will help to ensure that it is equipped to meaningfully serve all children—including Latino children—so that they are able to fulfill their potential as members of American society. For this reason, in October 2009 in Washington, DC, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) organized a forum of community leaders, youth experts, academics, and practitioners to examine indicators of Latino child well-being and to develop a comprehensive policy agenda that could lead to change on a macro-level. The forum, titled Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth, was the first of its kind in the nation. You may ask yourself, “Why should a specific subpopulation of children command our country’s attention?” First, the rapid growth in the Hispanic child population points to significant demographic changes that will shape our nation’s diversity in schools, neighborhoods, politics, and economics. Today’s Latino children are tomorrow’s adult voters, taxpayers, parents, and leaders. Second, while there is agreement that all children are better served by improvements to our country’s existing infrastructure, it is also true that Hispanic children face specific challenges that the current system has not adequately addressed. These include high rates of poverty and limited English proficiency, low levels of health insurance and academic achievement, increased interaction with juvenile and adult justice systems, and a high teen pregnancy rate. Taken together, these factors add up to the evidence that policymakers need to develop and implement policies and interventions that can reverse negative trends and ensure that all of our country’s children are on the same track.

Why Now? The U.S. is becoming increasingly diverse. The 2000 Census detailed a rapid and significant increase in the Hispanic population throughout the country over the previous decade, with an unexpected and surprising growth in geographic areas not typically associated with high numbers of Latinos, such as the Midwest and the Southeast. That growth has continued. Between July 2008 and July 2009, the Hispanic population increased by 3.1% (1.4 million people), making this the fastest-growing minority group in the country.¹ The current estimated U.S. Hispanic population is 48.4 million people, representing 15.8% of the total U.S. population.‡² It is projected that by 2050, Latinos will constitute 30% of the population.³ Furthermore, Latino youth account for 22% of all American children under the age of 18 and nearly 26% of children under the age of five.⁴ By 2030, it is projected that 31% of the nation’s child population will be Latino.⁵

* The terms “children” and “youth” are used interchangeably throughout this document and refer to individuals under the age of 18. † The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are used interchangeably by the U.S. Census Bureau and throughout this document to refer to persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American, Dominican, Spanish, and other Hispanic descent; they may be of any race. ‡ These data do not include the 3.9 million residents of Puerto Rico, nor do they reflect the 3% undercount for Latinos reported by the U.S. Census Bureau for the last decennial Census. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005)



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Contrary to public perception, the overwhelming majority of Latino children (92%) are U.S. citizens (91% U.S.-born and 1% naturalized).⁶ Additionally, more than two-fifths (42%) of the Hispanic youth population are third-and-higher-generation U.S. residents, while almost half (48%) are secondgeneration U.S. residents.⁷

to achieve broader, deeper, and more effective results. Finally, NCLR conducts its own research to arrive at a better understanding of Latino children and youth. In turn, this research informs the work at all levels. Given our history of collaboration, taking unpopular positions when necessary, a wealth of experience in addressing children’s issues, partnership with our national network of affiliated community-based organizations, and reputation as an authentic advocate for the community, NCLR is uniquely positioned to promote a holistic agenda on behalf of Latino children. This agenda includes the areas of education, health care, housing, immigration, income supports, juvenile justice reform, and serving as the voice of Latinos in the children’s advocacy community.

The growth in the Latino youth population has profound implications for the country’s future, particularly since they are overrepresented in a number of risk factor categories. Specifically, 59% of Latino youth live in low-income households, which reduces their access to quality education and health services and increases their likelihood of experiencing violent crime.⁸ The results of growing up poor are apparent. For instance, only 55% of Latino youth who enter ninth grade complete the twelfth grade and obtain a regular high school diploma,⁹ 41% of Latino children ages 6–11 are overweight,¹⁰ and based on the current incarceration rates, about one in six Latino male youth will be behind bars at some point in their lifetime.¹¹ For those living in the margins, the situation is even more precarious in the wake of the current economic recession, the effects of which have reverberated throughout federal and state government budgets. The U.S. economy has been slow to rebound or produce jobs and, as in all economic downturns, the most vulnerable are the hardest hit—Latino children and youth being among the most deeply affected. For example, the Latino unemployment rate is over 12%¹² and 17% of Latinos have lost their homes or are in imminent danger of doing so.¹³ Both unemployment and foreclosure have a serious impact on the ability of parents and other caregivers to adequately provide for children’s basic needs, much less the extras that enhance a child’s quality of life. Moreover, family budget woes are magnified by severe federal and state budget shortfalls. States continue to cut basic services to close large budget deficits,¹⁴ affecting families and communities that are already struggling. Our nation’s children face significant challenges, which are magnified by a struggling economy. Addressing these challenges requires a holistic and coordinated response from a variety of stakeholders. NCLR believes that our organization, our partners, and policymakers can do more to ensure that Latino children have the same opportunities as other children to reach their potential, and that we must act now. NCLR organized this forum to bring together a range of stakeholders to contribute their knowledge to the discussion, to highlight their work, and to identify viable solutions to the challenges that so many young Latinos face.

Why Us? As the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, NCLR has worked since its founding in 1968 to shed light on the challenges that Latino children and youth confront and to identify existing and potential opportunities to improve their lives. NCLR is committed to ensuring that Latino children are not an afterthought in our nation’s consciousness and has succeeded in advocating for meaningful change on some of the most pressing concerns affecting children in the realms of education, health, juvenile justice, and economic security. For instance, NCLR worked to ensure that English language learners, the majority of whom are Latino, were included in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 accountability requirements; pushed for expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) to cover legal immigrant children; secured funding for outreach to increase Latino participation in CHIP; and advocated for the inclusion of culturally appropriate foods in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. NCLR’s work encompasses both policy and programmatic efforts, a two-pronged approach aimed at achieving the maximum positive impact in the community. In addition, NCLR often collaborates with national and local partners on policy, advocacy, and programmatic efforts, which expands our ability

Simply put, what NCLR wants for Latino children is what we want for every child in the nation—the opportunity to claim their piece of the American Dream. This document summarizes the panels, speeches, and breakout sessions that occurred throughout the forum in the areas of health and poverty, education and juvenile justice, and immigration.



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Overview of the Forum

way, we sought to create a dialogue around the well-being and experience of Latino children which would form the foundation for discussing comprehensive policy approaches.

Although NCLR has acquired a great deal of expertise on issues regarding Latino children and youth, this forum—Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth—was the first major national convening in which other experts and stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds joined NCLR to explore the challenges and opportunities that Latino children and youth face. This unique event focused exclusively on the urgent issues that Latino children confront today, the future they will face if we do not resolve these issues, and potential solutions for improving their lives.

Breakout sessions following each panel were designed to elicit in-depth discussion on the part of audience members around specific areas of interest, and also to share the results of NCLR’s research or other efforts on a particular issue. Topics for the eight breakout sessions, which reflected the panel subjects, ranged from “Understanding Latino Child Poverty” and “Improving the Odds for Immigrant Students” to “The Impact of Our Broken Immigration System on Latino Families and Children.” The smaller group size of the breakout sessions, and an invitation to audience members to share their own insights and experiences, created an atmosphere that promoted a rich discussion and networking among stakeholders.

NCLR’s strong relationships with Latino communities and community-based organizations, policymakers and legislators, academics, and other partners nationwide paved the way for us to engage a wide range of experts who could contribute to the discussions from a multiplicity of perspectives. In addition to sharing knowledge and galvanizing audience members to take action, the forum’s ultimate goal was to establish the foundation for shaping a clear research and policy agenda for Hispanic children and youth. The forum agenda featured empowering speeches by such luminaries as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Senator Robert Menendez, and NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía. The keynote speakers were Marian Wright Edelman, the nation’s most renowned child advocate; and Dr. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, one of the foremost academic researchers in the areas of immigration and Latino education. In addition, leading national researchers joined us to speak on their particular areas of expertise: Dr. Linda Jacobsen, a demographer and Vice President of Domestic Programs at the Population Reference Bureau; Dr. Leighton Ku, a nationally respected health policy expert from George Washington University; and Dr. Francisco Villarruel, Professor of Family and Child Ecology at Michigan State University, who discussed juvenile justice. We also invited top child advocates to speak: Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President, White House Domestic Policy Council, who spoke on the need for a holistic approach throughout the educational system; and Jim Weill, President of the Food Research and Action Center, who discussed child hunger and national efforts to improve and expand the reach of programs such as food stamps, school lunches, and WIC. Finally, since a major objective of the forum was to highlight the work and experiences of NCLR Affiliates with a focus on children and youth programs, panelists included executive directors from community-based service providers—Beatrice Garza from the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans, and Dr. Juan Sánchez from Southwest Key Programs. To add texture and depth, the presentations sought to mix big-picture numbers with more in-depth research. To this end, the day began with “Latino Children in the U.S.: From Numbers to Stories,” an overview by Dr. Linda Jacobsen of national-level indicators and projections for Latino child and youth well-being. The talk was followed by a presentation by Dr. Patricia Foxen, Associate Director of Research at NCLR, on qualitative research examining Latino youth’s perceptions of discrimination and stereotyping. To put a human face on the subject, and to highlight the positive work of NCLR’s Affiliates, this segment ended with a video depicting Latino youth programs run by two of the Affiliates. The five main substantive topics chosen for discussion throughout the day were health, poverty, education, immigration, and juvenile justice—areas that touch the lives of Latino children in profound ways. NCLR’s substantial policy and programmatic work in these areas created a basis for opening discussions with top experts in these fields. Each panel included an academic, an advocate or policymaker, and an executive director of an NCLR Affiliate, each of whom spoke on the topic from their particular perspective. One of the main goals of the panels was to discuss integration and interrelation among the different issue areas. Speakers were asked to include concrete cases—for example, how poverty impacts health, or how education and juvenile justice issues intersect. In this

A highlight of the day was the powerful and motivating keynote speeches during the luncheon. First, Ms. Wright Edelman spoke with passion about the need to protect and invest in all children, and about the gaps that continue to shape a system that promotes structural inequalities and that is not conducive to a supportive and nurturing childhood experience, in particular for children of color. Dr. Suárez-Orozco then presented a comprehensive set of data based on longitudinal research of Latino and other immigrant child populations, analyzing the many factors—in particular, immigration and education-related factors—that contribute to inequalities and proposing clear paths to reducing the barriers that Latino children face. Finally, to ensure that the perspectives and voices of young Latinos were represented, a number of opportunities were presented throughout the day to include Latino youth themselves. Young people from Washington, DC-area Affiliates were invited to participate in the day’s activities, including joining in discussions during the breakout sessions. An exhibit of photographs taken by children from an NCLR charter school was on display during the forum, and during the closing ceremony, a group of students performed an interpretive dance, eliciting an ardent response from the audience as well as the second standing ovation of the day (after Ms. Wright Edelman).



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Welcome and Introductory Remarks

Hon. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Janet Murguía, President and CEO National Council of La Raza Janet Murguía has devoted her career in public service to opening the door to the American Dream to millions of American families. As a key figure among the next generation of leaders in the Latino community, she continues this mission as President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.

Ms. Murguía opened the forum by welcoming and thanking the participants assembled for this historic day during which a road map for investment in the future of Latino children would be created. NCLR conceived of this event upon the realization that every challenge and opportunity we address is really about children. In particular, she stated that when families lose their homes, children lose their foundation in life. When immigration raids strike, children are left behind. When access to health care is limited or absent, children do not get the help they need, which affects every part of their lives. When the focus is on cracking down on crime rather than preventing it, we stand to lose a whole generation. When issues of poverty are ignored and investments in education are not made, the futures of children are limited. The nation is at a crossroads when it comes to children, particularly Latino children. Currently, 20% of Latino children lack health insurance; only 55% graduate on time; nearly 18,000 youth are in jail, many in adult prisons; and nearly 400,000 Latinos will lose their homes this year. Addressing these issues is critical given that Latino children are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. child population. Latino children comprise more than one-fifth of children under the age of 18. Moreover, most Latino children are citizens, thus representing our nation’s future workforce, leaders, and consumers. Their success is our success and their failure is our failure. The challenge for participants is to help develop a comprehensive agenda that can positively impact, nurture the potential of, and create a better future for Latino youth. We must ensure that all Latino children:

• Have access to quality, affordable health care • Graduate from high school prepared to enter college

Kathleen Sebelius is the 21st Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She leads the principal agency charged with keeping Americans healthy, ensuring they get the health care they need, and providing children, families, and seniors with the essential human services they depend on. She served as Governor of Kansas from 2003 to 2009 and was recognized in 2005 by Time magazine as one of America’s Five Best Governors.

Secretary Sebelius began with a simple statement that set the tone for the day’s events: Los niños son el futuro (Children are our future). She declared that what is happening with Latino children is what’s happening with America’s children. As Latino children prosper, so will our country. Secretary Sebelius informed the participants that President Obama understands this, and now is the time to establish priorities for the future of our children. In the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), those priorities are:

• Increasing Access to High-Quality Early Childhood Education (ECE). Participation in a

high-quality ECE program is the single best determinant of a child’s academic success. It also is a factor in whether a child interacts with the juvenile justice system, goes to prison, or uses drugs. The administration has worked with Senator Menendez and others to double funding for Early Head Start and is hoping to invest resources into improving the quality of ECE programs through the Early Learning Challenge Fund.

• Expanding Health Insurance for Children. Good health is important to learning. Expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program occurred through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, providing an additional four million children with coverage and ending the five-year waiting period for health care to which legal immigrant children and pregnant women had been subjected for more than a decade. Additionally, an aggressive outreach program was instituted to ensure that eligible families enroll in the program.

• Diversifying the Medical Workforce. Although having health insurance ensures access to

a provider, if the provider does not speak your language, is not culturally competent, or will not accept your insurance card, barriers to care persist. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act made investments in diversifying the medical workforce—from doctors, nurse practitioners, and mental health technicians, to social and outreach workers.

• Eliminating Health Disparities. HHS publishes reports documenting the health disparities

• Are able to access the country’s safety net regardless of their parents’ immigration status

that persist year after year; however, it has failed to close the gaps. The Department wants to identify individuals who are interested in examining the gaps.

• Do not enter the juvenile justice system, or break the cycle to prevent further engagement

• Reforming Health Care. The time has finally arrived to ensure that everyone in America has

• Can come home to a house that their parents own and will not lose to foreclosure Ms. Murguía encouraged the audience to draw on their experience and background during the day’s activities. She closed her remarks by stating that the forum is about launching a vision of the American Dream and crafting a roadmap for Latino children and youth.

access to affordable health care. The debate is currently under way, and everyone’s participation is needed. The system needs to change.

She concluded by stating that America needs a comprehensive approach to prosperity. The country needs to get back to work, and health care needs to be reformed. The education system needs to meet the challenges of the 21st century for all children and to ensure that prosperity and hope reaches all so that the nation is prosperous.



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Hon. Robert Menendez, U.S. Senator New Jersey

Additionally, Senator Menendez called for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. For many generations, immigrants have contributed to the progress and prosperity of this nation. There are currently 12 million undocumented in the U.S., but if we are to help our economy grow and keep our citizens safe, we must pass reform that protects immigrant laborers while ensuring the security of the country.

Robert Menendez has served as one of New Jersey’s U.S. senators since 2006. He currently serves on the Senate Committees on Finance; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Energy and Natural Resources; and Foreign Relations. He is also the Chairman of the Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development and the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection.

Senator Menendez recounted his dream for the next generation of Americans. His hope was that speeches would be unnecessary, symposiums not needed—that Latino children would not be without decent, affordable health care; or be held back from attending college because of an inability to access financial aid due to their legal status; or be living in poverty. He believes that dreams can come true if today’s adults do a good job and are good mentors. However, this dream is currently not the reality. From health insurance coverage to educational attainment, Latino children are at a disadvantage relative to other groups. Yet one thing is certain: no matter what position a Latino child may be in, their education is important to the community. There is a need to educate the next generation to fulfill the Latino community’s promise as well as America’s promise. Thus, it is our task and duty to make the dream a reality. Quoting the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, Senator Menendez said, “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with but a single step.” That step is education. It was education that allowed the senator to overcome the challenges he faced as a refugee living in a Jersey City tenement and in graduating from college—and becoming a member of the United States Senate. Education unlocks social and economic opportunity and upward mobility in this country. Changing the statistics requires working with parents to overcome their own barriers to involvement in the educational system so they can help their children succeed. It also requires commitment from federal, state, and local governments to support excellence in education and provide public schools with teachers certified in their subjects. The country needs to place a premium on education, intellect, and learning. Senator Menendez made the point that Latinos were here before the United States became a country, and they have contributed to its growth and have defended it as patriots. Yet, many college-age men and women who came to this country as young children cannot achieve their full potential because their parents are undocumented. Even though they have worked hard to succeed in school, they are held back from attending college—which reduces their earnings, the taxes they pay, and the investments they can make in our economy. He believes that if the nation is to continue to “remain at the apex of innovation and intellect, it is time to stop holding down our rising stars, time to unharness their energy” and pass the “DREAM Act.” Although education is the key to unlocking social and economic mobility, Senator Menendez believes that a holistic approach to addressing Latino children’s needs is necessary. Education does not exist in a vacuum. Children need economic security—including job security for their families. Economic policies that strengthen the family as well as the community are critical to the success of children. Parents, teachers, students, and community organizations need to come together and understand the relationship between education, poverty, security, and joblessness, all of which disproportionately affect Latinos.

Senator Menendez closed by presenting the participants with a challenge and an opportunity. He stated that “Life is like a candle that is flickering, and what we want to do is make it burn a lot brighter before we hand it off to the next generation of Americans.”



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Latino Children in the U.S.: From Numbers to Stories

• Economic security. Twenty-eight percent of Latino children are poor and 60% live in low-income

families. While many factors contribute to a child’s development, economic well-being is one of the most significant. When children experience economic hardship, they experience poor health and educational outcomes.

Dr. Linda Jacobsen, Vice President of Domestic Programs Population Reference Bureau

• Education. Latinos are underrepresented in early childhood education programs, and only

55% of Latinos who enter the ninth grade finish with a regular diploma, putting them at a severe disadvantage for employment opportunities.

Linda Jacobsen is Vice President of Domestic Programs at the Population Reference Bureau (PRB). She is a demographer with more than 25 years of experience analyzing U.S. population trends and their implications. She is co-author of PRB’s recent Population Bulletin, “U.S. Economic and Social Trends Since 2000”, and has been a featured speaker on U.S. demographic trends at the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and at Harvard University’s Program for Newly Elected Members of Congress.

• Health care and status. Almost one-fifth of Latino children do not have health insurance. Of

those who do, more than half are covered through public programs. Latino children experience a number of significant health challenges. For example, in 2007, 41% of Latino children were overweight or obese.

• Language. One-fourth of Latino children live in linguistically isolated households. One-fifth have Profiles and Projections: Latino Children Today and Tomorrow

difficulty speaking English. Language barriers can hinder a child’s success in school and prevent parents from participating in their child’s education.

Dr. Jacobsen began by discussing the growth of the Latino child population. The number of Latino children went from eight million in 1990 to 16 million in 2008. It is projected that this number will climb to 27 million in 2030. Moreover, the proportion of all children who are Latino increased from 12% in 1990 to 22% today. By 2030, projections show they will account for almost one-third of all children.

Dr. Jacobsen then described what the future could look like for Latino children by 2030, describing two scenarios. The first is if the current rates of risk factors remain the same—in other words, no progress is made. The second scenario is if the rates of risk factors change by the same amount they have in the past.

The Hispanic population is growing faster than any other group, for a number of reasons. First, there is a 10:1 ratio between births and deaths in the Latino community, far larger than the 1:1 ratio for Whites. Second, Hispanic net immigration adds another 500,000 individuals per year to the Latino population. For Whites, this number is only 160,000 individuals. Finally, Latinas have a higher fertility rate than other women, on average having about three children, compared to two children for Whites and Blacks. The differing growth rates have led to a change in the composition of the child and youth population; by 2030, minority children will make up the majority of the U.S. child population, at 53%.

If scenario one plays out, Latino children will be a larger share of all children in a number of high-risk groups. For example, Latinos represent 32% of all poor children today. If the rate does not change, Latino children will represent 44% of children living in poverty in 2030. Additionally, the share of all overweight or obese children who are Latino will be almost 40%. Finally, Latino children will make up more than half of all children without health insurance.

Additionally, there has been a change in areas of the country where the Latino child and youth population is concentrated. In 1990, less than 10% of all children were Latino in most counties in the U.S., and Latino children and youth were concentrated in Florida and the western and southwestern states. Now they are dispersed across a larger swath of the U.S., and close to one-third of U.S. counties have Latino child populations of at least 10%. Dr. Jacobsen explained that Latino children are a growing and vital part of communities throughout the nation—they are our future workers, voters, and taxpayers with a significant potential to contribute to the U.S., for a host of reasons:

• The Latino population is young; one-third are under the age of 18. • Nine out of ten Latino children are U.S.-born citizens. • Two-thirds live in two-parent households, giving them a strong foundation. Yet they face challenges that can impede their ability to reach their potential and become productive members of U.S. society. These challenges include:

If scenario two were to occur, millions more Latino children would be affected by these risk factors. There would be 10.2 million Latino children in poverty in 2030 versus 4.1 million today. The number of Latino children who are overweight or obese would more than double from 2.2 million to 5.2 million. Finally, while the rate of uninsurance for Latino children fell in the past, a further decrease of 2% would still leave 4.6 million children without coverage. America’s Future

Although the scenarios are hypothetical and the future is uncertain, Dr. Jacobsen noted that one thing is clear: the population of Latino children in the U.S. will increase. Therefore, it is imperative to address the economic, health, and education challenges these children face. In, closing, she stated that failure to act means that the country “may not have the healthy, productive adults our economy and society will need tomorrow.”



Speaking Out

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Dr. Patricia Foxen, Associate Director, Research National Council of La Raza

A fair number of participants also discussed the workplace as discriminatory, a perception that often appeared to be based on their parents’ own experiences. Several discussed the assumption of employers that Latino workers may be undocumented, leading the former to implement unfair or even abusive work practices.

Patricia Foxen is the Associate Director of Research at the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. She is a cultural and medical anthropologist with a background in international health, and she has worked extensively with Latino communities in the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Latin and Central America.

A surprising and disturbing finding was the salient presence of law enforcement in their lives. Most of them had friends or siblings who had been arrested, and the majority had regular experience with police and security officers in public settings and in schools. There was an overwhelming sense that Latino youth, more than others, are singled out for questioning and unjustly arrested, primarily on account of their appearance, ethnicity, and language.

Dr. Foxen added a human dimension to the numbers discussed by Dr. Jacobsen. She presented the preliminary results of a qualitative research project on immigrant and second-generation Latino youth. The project explored Latino teens’ perceptions of the education, workforce, and juvenile justice systems and focused on the issue of perceived stereotyping and discrimination in these settings. Dr. Foxen contextualized the project by summarizing previous research on Latino youth, which shows that the acculturation process for this population is diverse and depends on factors such as parental education, country of origin, and environmental factors such as neighborhood and school characteristics and poverty. The research demonstrated that integration patterns across generations generally show similar gains for Latinos as for other immigrant groups. For example, second-generation Latino youth are more likely than first-generation youth to finish high school and attend college, while third-generation youth are more likely to live in higher-income families and be proficient in English.

Dr. Foxen explained that while the focus group findings were preliminary, they both confirm and add to previous research on negative patterns, such as tracking and racial profiling. Latino teenagers are extremely sensitive to specific forms of systemic discrimination through which negative stereotypes appear to be institutionally reinforced. The combined effect of negative stereotypes within all of these social settings appears to create a great deal of stress for many, contributing “to the perception of an unsafe and often untrustworthy overall environment.” Moreover, the range of responses to this stereotyping varies among youth, with some expressing frustration and anger, which can result in poor decisions or internalization of negative stereotypes, while others use strategies to deflect the assumptions of others and avoid negative reactions or risky behaviors.

Yet acculturation also presents problems for Latino teenagers, and while second- and third-generation youth do better than their immigrant and first-generation peers on many indicators, they do worse in other areas. Third-generation youth are likelier to be overweight or obese than those who are first generation, and second-generation youth are likelier to live in single-parent households and have certain mental health problems. Additionally, the poverty rate does not improve a great deal. Thirtyfour percent of immigrant children live in poverty compared to 25% of second- and third-generation youth. Thus, despite the gains of many Latino teenagers, a significant segment of the Latino youth population is caught in a cycle of generational poverty often associated with low-paying jobs, low levels of education, and brushes with the law. To understand how Latino youth view the specific social settings that shape the way they experience challenges and opportunities, NCLR spoke directly to Hispanic youth in four cities (Langley Park, Maryland; Los Angeles, California; Providence, Rhode Island; and Nashville, Tennessee) through a series of focus group discussions (FGDs). Each city hosted two FGDs, one with first-generation immigrant youth and another with second-generation teens. Interviews with adult professionals were conducted to provide additional context to the discussions in the FGDs. Preliminary research findings showed that perceived discrimination and negative stereotyping emerged as themes in all cities in all three settings: the classroom, at work, and on the street. Dr. Foxen’s presentation included direct narratives from the youth on these topics. Generally, FGD participants were aware of being stereotyped and expressed frustration that negative perceptions and broad categorizations of their ethnic group often lead to differential treatment. Within the specific setting of school, many spoke about being stereotyped as low performers and the perception held by teachers that Latino youth do not “work as hard or aim high academically.” They were frustrated that such negative tracking put them at a disadvantage relative to other students, and many noted that Latino students are placed in lower tracks and are not taught materials that would make them competitive with other students.

Dr. Foxen concluded by emphasizing that negative stereotypes and perceived discrimination with which Latino youth cope must be understood with respect to the positive, and in fact highly demanding, narratives of their families and communities. Indeed, as the youth discussed, immigrant parents promote the American Dream and place very high expectations on their children, whether financial or academic. Yet many parents are not able to be involved in their children’s lives due to job hours, language barriers, or their inability to navigate the American school system. The tension between the expectations that parents place on them and the support they actually receive could lead to low self-confidence, discouragement, and frustration, which are often behind the decision to engage in risky behaviors. The adults who were interviewed as part of the research echoed this sentiment. They also stressed that “outreach to parents, stronger gang prevention, and fostering a sense of belonging and interest” was important to the success of Latino teenagers. Latino Youth Speak

Dr. Foxen closed her presentation with a video titled, Latino Youth Speak, which highlights two NCLR Affiliates—George Sanchez Public Charter School in San Antonio, Texas and the Maryland Multicultural Youth Center in Langley Park, Maryland—which both have a strong focus on young people. In the video Latino youth describe their experiences and challenges in the educational system, staying away from gangs, confronting stereotypes, and discussing their future professions.



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Environmental Factors Affecting the Well-Being of Latino Children: Health and Poverty Janis Bowdler, Deputy Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project National Council of La Raza

Latino children and their families have difficulty accessing health care due to language barriers and a perceived lack of respect and cultural understanding. There are also a number of factors at the parental level affecting children’s access to health care, including immigration status, employment stability, and access to health care and health insurance—factors which Latino families risk passing on from one generation to the next. Latino children do have some health-related advantages, such as being less likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs, and being more likely to live in two-parent households. Unfortunately, these advantages diminish for second- and third-generation youth and for those who become acculturated. Despite bleak indicators, progress is being made, as demonstrated by falling uninsurance rates among Latino children and the inclusion of immigrant children and pregnant women in health coverage under the recent reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Janis Bowdler is the Deputy Director of the Wealth-Building Policy Project at the National Council of La Raza. Her expertise is in homeownership and housing discrimination; predatory lending and other financial abuses; asset accumulation and net worth; and credit cards, auto loans, and other financial services.

Dr. Ku ended his comments by noting that “[W]hen we do things that hurt immigrant children, we hurt citizens in the future.” He also challenged the audience, and America more broadly, to consider its views on immigrants and how best to help Latino children and families who require assistance but face barriers to the supports that would ensure a healthier future.


Breakout Session

Dr. Leighton Ku, Professor of Health Policy The George Washington University

Mixed-Status Families and Access to Health Care


Leighton Ku is Professor of Health Policy at The George Washington University (GWU) and Director of the Center for Health Policy Research at GWU. He is a nationally respected health policy expert, who has conducted research on topics including health care financing, state and national health care reform, health access for vulnerable populations, including immigrants, and Medicaid.

Jim Weill, President Food Research and Action Center Jim Weill is President of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), the leading anti-hunger public policy group in America. Prior to joining FRAC, he was at the Children’s Defense Fund for 16 years, as Program Director and General Counsel. He has devoted his entire professional career to reducing hunger and poverty, protecting the legal rights of children and poor people, and expanding economic security, income and nutrition support programs, and health insurance coverage.

Ms. Bowdler opened by noting that one in three Latino children currently lives in poverty, and one in five does not have health care—sobering statistics that could have dire consequences for these children. The connection between these two issues is crystallized by the fact that children in low-income families have poorer health and educational outcomes. In turn, having poor health during childhood negatively impacts school performance and leads to poverty in adulthood. NCLR has played an important role in addressing these issues by ensuring that the perspective of Latinos is included in important health, tax, and housing policy debates. Unfortunately, the policy responses to these issues have not adequately addressed the needs of Latino children and families. It is imprudent to continue ignoring them as doing so threatens the health and future of our children. Dr. Ku prefaced his remarks by recognizing the diversity among Latino children and acknowledging the difficulty in making generalizations about the population. In comparison to their White and African American peers, Latino children face a number of disadvantages when it comes to health and health care access. Most notably, they are more likely to be uninsured and, as a result, have less access to medical and dental care.

Discussion Leader Jennifer Ng’andu, Deputy Director, Health Policy Project National Council of La Raza Featured Presenter Kara Ryan, Research Analyst, Health Policy Project National Council of La Raza A cross-section of individuals with backgrounds in program, policy, and research and experience at the community, academic, and government level participated in a discussion on the barriers that mixed-status families face when accessing health care. Although most attendees were familiar with the barriers Latinos face, few were aware of the experience of mixed-status families. After a brief presentation on the preliminary results of NCLR research in this area, participants identified short- and long-term opportunities to address mixed-status families’ barriers to health care access. These included more collaboration between community-based organizations (CBOs) by providing resources to CBOs to expand the culturally and linguistically competent services they already provide and launching a campaign that tells a positive story about immigrants in this country. Participants noted that differences in state laws make it particularly difficult for migrant and mobile families to access health care. Overall, participants agreed that CBOs which serve Latinos face challenges in obtaining grants to continue and expand the work they are doing. It is difficult for them to provide services without additional funding. Some participants from the government disagreed with this, given that they believe there are numerous grants that CBOs can apply for from the government. However, the lack of capacity among some CBOs was recognized as a barrier to successfully competing for funding. Finally, participants stated that poor access to health care for mixed-status families is linked to immigration policy, including local 287(g) programs, which increase fear among community members and prevent access to programs for which they are eligible. Administrative policies, which limit access to health care, can also be streamlined by looking at families holistically, not as individuals. This could be addressed by working with CBOs and promotores (lay health educators), since once trust is established between the community and an agency and staff, community members will open up about other challenges or barriers they are facing.



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Breakout Session Child Nutrition and Obesity Discussion Leader Liany Elba Arroyo, Associate Director, Education and Children’s Policy Project National Council of La Raza Featured Presenters Robert Sanchez, Policy Analyst, Health Policy Project National Council of La Raza Dr. Maria Rosa, Vice President, Institute for Hispanic Health National Council of La Raza The majority of session participants were from community-based organizations; however, there was good representation from the research and policy arena. The differing backgrounds led to a lively discussion. A brief presentation of NCLR’s work in the child nutrition and obesity area was followed by small group discussions focused on policy, program, and research. Overall, participants felt that there were opportunities to impact the nutrition needs and obesity rates of Latino children. These opportunities include looking at best practices or models currently changing the behaviors of Latinos and creating a campaign to raise awareness of the issues associated with nutrition and obesity. There was some disagreement in the group regarding where the emphasis should be placed: program or policy. Ultimately, they agreed that a comprehensive approach was necessary to combat obesity and increase the nutritional value of food consumed by community members. However, the majority of the conversation focused on the challenges in making large-scale change. Specifically, the participants cited the difficulty of changing the perceptions about food and nutrition in the Latino community, a lack of data on the issue, and funding. Participants also brought up the importance of addressing nutrition and obesity within the context of poverty and educational outcomes. It was noted that research demonstrates that poverty limits access to nutritionally sound foods and safe places for recreation.

Mr. Weill began by noting that Latinos and Blacks have a poverty rate three times higher than that of Whites. Poverty—which negatively affects children’s physical health, mental health, early development, and education—affects Latino children in particular who, like children in other groups, are much more likely to be poor than adults. Food security statistics mirror poverty rates, with 3.9 million Latino children living in food insecure* families. Although food stamp and nutrition programs can ameliorate this situation, because of language barriers, fear of applying, and caseworker attitudes, such programs often do not reach Latino children and families as effectively as other populations. Numerous programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly the Food Stamp Program; the school lunch and breakfast programs; Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and child care, summer, and after-school food programs have been extremely effective by lifting millions of children and adults out of poverty and contributing to children’s health, learning, and early childhood development.

* “Food insecure” is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

However, Latino children, especially those in low-income families, are also facing the epidemic of obesity. Low-income families typically lack the resources to purchase a healthy diet, have limited access to grocery stores, and often experience an unhealthy cycle of feast or famine.* Mr. Weill suggested that more energy should go into ensuring that low-income families have the resources to purchase a healthy diet. This may include such strategies as increasing refundable tax credits, the minimum wage, and food stamp benefits. According to Mr. Weill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was a good start in addressing obesity, but obesity will remain a health issue until poverty and food insecurity are addressed and low-income families have enough resources to make healthy choices for their children.

Breakout Session Understanding Latino Child Poverty and the Role of Anti-Poverty Programs Discussion Leader Leticia Miranda, Associate Director, Employment and Economic Policy Project National Council of La Raza Featured Presenter Arloc Sherman, Senior Researcher Center on Budget and Policy Priorities The largest session of the forum was attended by a mix of service providers working in child and youth development, immigration services, and other areas. Session presenters focused their presentation on the data concerning Latino poverty including the drop in the poverty rate since the early 1990s. Despite this drop, Latino children are an increasing share of poor children, and they and their families are less likely to receive government assistance.

Luncheon Speakers

After the presentation, participants discussed the unique characteristics of Latinos in poverty, specifically mixed-status families who often do not—or believe they cannot—participate in anti-poverty and income support programs. Participants reached consensus on the fact that Latinos face many barriers in trying to access government assistance programs, including a lack of knowledge about what is available and what their rights are. Additionally, given the high number of Latinos in the labor force, current programs exclude families who are working but living within the poverty margin. Persistent poverty was also mentioned as a challenge particularly for rural areas where Latinos are transitioning from the agricultural sector to the retail sector, as was a lack of cultural competence among community institutions—specifically schools and law enforcement.

Marian Wright Edelman, President Children’s Defense Fund

Ms. Wright Edelman began by discussing the status of Latino children. Almost 40% of the uninsured children in America and community generally one five Latinoleaders children is uninsured the fact that Participants felt that inare theLatino, short-term, andin government should reach outdespite to community 90% of these children live in households withrather working members. Additionally, two-thirds of all members to identify and respond to local needs than family assume that the institutions providing services know what is best. Additionally, they felt there needed to be community-building among the different racial/ethnic uninsured children are eligible forthat Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), yet and income groups in order to address these issues.

There were numerous areas of intersection noted by participants. They stated that poverty affects all other aspects of child and youth well-being, including health and school performance. Another intersection noted was between poverty and the impact of gangs, given the relationship to future academic and economic outcomes.


According to the Food Research and Action Center, the cycle of “feast and famine” refers to the tendency of individuals to eat less or skip meals to stretch food budgets and then possibly overeat when food does become available. This results in chronic ups and downs in food intake which can contribute to weight gain.



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Breakout Session The Impact of Foreclosures on Children Discussion Leader Janis Bowdler, Deputy Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project National Council of La Raza Featured Presenters Dr. Roberto Quercia, Director Center for Community Capital, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Andy Smith, Research Associate Center for Community Capital, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill A cross-section of forum attendees participated in this breakout session. Session presenters provided data from a qualitative research project which details the impact of foreclosures on Latino children and families, such as children’s academic performance, the disruption of the family unit, and the mental health status of family members, among others. In spite of this, the study reveals that families who have undergone foreclosure still believe they can someday achieve the “American Dream.” During the discussion, participants reached consensus on the need for foreclosure prevention assistance to reach struggling families and for information that will help families who have already lost their homes. Participants recommended, and viewed as a short-term opportunity, using schools to disseminate this type of information to children and families through home flyers and Parent Teacher Association meetings. Long-term challenges included the rate at which foreclosures continue to increase in the Latino community and the scarcity of resources to assist families. The points of intersection mentioned by participants between foreclosures and other areas were health and education. They mentioned that foreclosures are associated with various mental health issues such as stress and anxiety, which can trigger other health concerns. Additionally, a recent study found that youth who have experienced the loss of a home are more likely to have trouble in school, including behavior and academic problems.

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Luncheon Speakers Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President Children’s Defense Fund Marian Wright Edelman, founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans throughout her entire professional life. She is a board member of the Robin Hood Foundation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Association to Benefit Children, and is a member of the Selection Committee for the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine.

Ms. Wright Edelman began by discussing the status of Latino children. Almost 40% of the uninsured children in America are Latino, and generally one in five Latino children is uninsured despite the fact that 90% of these children live in households with working family members. Additionally, two-thirds of all uninsured children are eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), yet their families cannot access the program due to structural barriers. The statistics demonstrate that while Latino children are the fastest-growing segment of the nation’s population, they are among those who have the greatest need. While the U.S. is a wealthy nation, it has not adequately provided for its children. This is our “Achilles heel.” Too many children drop out of school, are born into poverty, have no health insurance, are abused and neglected, or fall victim to violence. She asked the audience: What happens to children who cannot read, write, or do math in this global competitive society? Her response: They are sentenced to dead-end lives. Education is critical to survival. All of the issues presented at this forum affect every part of a child’s life. Health care becomes an education issue since children cannot learn if they are ill. When children are abused or neglected, they will not do well in school or in any other area of their life. Ms. Wright Edelman detailed a scenario in which a family with five children provides adequate support, guidance, and nutrition to four of its children and leaves the last child to fend for itself. In our society, that fifth child is twice as likely to live in a working family yet be on welfare, and likelier to be White and live in a rural or suburban area. Yet, we know that Black and Latino children are at greater risk of being poor and entering the cradle-to-prison pipeline. The pipeline must be dismantled as incarceration is becoming the “new American apartheid.” The cost to taxpayers is greater if the fifth child is ignored instead of provided with the services he needs to thrive. The public needs to hold our systems accountable. We cannot support a system that is failing a majority of children of color. Children are fragile and face many risks. They live up, or down, to the expectations of the significant adults in their lives. Ms. Wright Edelman suggested that child advocates “get out of our silos” and see the whole child within the context of the family and community. This includes investing in early childhood education; holding schools accountable for teaching students; diverting youth from the juvenile justice system; providing expanded after-school opportunities; and giving better support to families.



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

She stated four concrete steps to improving the health of children:

however, Mexican migration has been at the center of an unprecedented shift in U.S. population into the South and Southwest.

• Simplify enrollment into means-tested programs to facilitate access for needy families. • Ensure that all children receive comprehensive health benefits to create parity between children enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid.

• Create a national health safety net, with established minimum benefits for all children regardless of where they live or what public health insurance program they are enrolled in.

• Guarantee cost-sharing protections for children who will be covered under the proposed health insurance exchange so that children will receive adequate benefits.

Ms. Wright Edelman concluded by challenging participants to stop the downward trajectory of minority children. She urged participants to make their voices heard by standing up and speaking out for children.

Latino Immigration and Education

Amid these changes, the Latino population continues to grow. The most recent estimates project that by 2050, more than 130 million Latinos will live in the United States. This is all happening against a massive shift in the age structure of the country. The nation’s older population, most of which are Whites of European origin, are aging and nearing retirement while Latinos are a younger population. Dr. Suárez-Orozco asserts that there is an 800-pound gorilla in the room: “Will the White European origin population check out of the existing social compact? Or will there instead be a trans-generational solidarity between the aging White baby boomers and younger Latinos and a remaking of the American social compact?” Dr. Suárez-Orozco states that to remake this social compact we must strengthen the Latino family, which is both our greatest resource and our most valuable cultural capital. This strengthening will happen when we start making smart investments in education. Such investments in human capital will also contribute to:

Dr. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Professor, Globalization and Education, New York University Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton University

• Generating innovation that makes economies grow.

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco is the Courtney Sale Ross University Professor of Globalization and Education at New York University. His research is on conceptual and empirical problems in the areas of cultural psychology and psychological anthropology with a focus on the study of mass migration, globalization, and education. He is the author of numerous scholarly essays, award-winning books, and edited volumes.

• Interrupting the cradle-to-prison pipeline.

Dr. Suárez-Orozco followed Ms. Wright-Edelman’s “Call to Action” with additional information on the needs and realities facing Latino children. He specifically looked at the effects of immigration and education on the current condition of Latino children and youth. Two-thirds of all Latinos are either foreign-born or the U.S. citizen children of foreign-born parents. Given this statistic, it is not surprising that immigration plays a large role in the U.S. experience of Latino children. Yet, while immigration is a part of our country’s past, present, and future, it is not solely a U.S. concern. It is has become the reality in all high-income countries. According to Dr. Suárez-Orozco, “Managing the transition of our immigrant-origin population is at the very, very center. It’s the test that will set the context for the kind of country we’re going to become.” As the world has changed, so has immigration to the U.S. Immigration by Latinos has created unprecedented developments in the country. Dr. Suárez-Orozco calls this the new immigration. Within that framework, there are still ever-changing patterns. In 2008 there were approximately 100,000 fewer immigrants in the U.S. than in 2007, and immigration from Mexico dropped by as much as 13% in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the first quarter of 2008. However, immigration in the 21st century must be thought of within the context of the Latino family and experience. Specifically, there are three Gs in the field of Latino immigration: generation, geography, and gender. First, immigration is not a new phenomenon in the United States; it spans generations, and the lessons learned over time can be applied to today. Next, historically the dominant population centers in the country have been concentrated in the Northeast. More recently,

• Enhancing a community’s social cohesion by creating “one citizenry with a common purpose, shared sensibilities, and a sense of common destiny.”

• Improving health outcomes.

A more fundamental reason for investing in education, he states, is simply because Latino families want it for their children, and Latino youth and young adults believe that an education is important to their success in life. Not investing in education could have detrimental effects as evidenced by low academic achievement of Latino youth and their high dropout rates. However, there are policies in place which undermine the well-being of Latino youth and families— which education could ameliorate. These first is the separation of Latino families, which has become a normative characteristic of the immigration experience; one study indicates that in nearly 80% of cases, children were separated from their fathers during immigration. Next are policies related to language acquisition in school; current policies that mandate English-language acquisition do not take into account the length of time it takes to acquire a language, and native languages are being lost despite the increasing globalization of our economy. The last is unauthorized immigration; each day, four million children head home from school and, due to U.S. immigration and deportation policies, do not know whether or not their parents will be waiting there for them. To address the challenges he outlined, Dr. Suárez-Orozco proposed the following:

• Revise current sink-or-swim integration policies. • Increase preschool opportunities and ensure that they align with Latino cultural sensibilities. • Rethink the current educational structure by preparing teachers to teach the skills necessary for students to enter a diverse and global economy.

• Reconsider the regime of high-stakes testing for immigrant-origin children.



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Breakout Session

Opportunities and Threats to Our Children’s Future: Education and Juvenile Justice

The Impact of Our Broken Immigration System on Latino Families and Children Discussion Leader Clarissa Martinez De Castro, Director, Immigration and National Campaigns National Council of La Raza Featured Presenters Laura Vazquez, Legislative Analyst, Immigration Policy Project National Council of La Raza Rosa Maria Castañeda, Research Associate, Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population Urban Institute The majority of participants were service providers; thus, this session’s discussion focused primarily on the impact of immigration enforcement policies on providing services to the immigrant community. Following a short presentation, the participants focused their comments on the need for community information and training that outlines the rights of immigrants as well as encouraging immigrant communities to create “family preparedness plans” in the event of the detention of a parent or caregiver. Participants also expressed concerns regarding the psychological impact on children of separation from their parents. An advocate mentioned that there was a need to collect more data and documentation about the impact of raids and enforcement activities. Short-term opportunities to impact the lives of children affected by immigration enforcement policies included community “know your rights” trainings, the development of family preparedness plans, and better data collection to identify where racial profiling is occurring. The long-term challenge and opportunity identified was passage of comprehensive immigration reform. The group noted a number of areas that intersect with immigration. Two primary areas identified were education and the criminal justice system. Given the participant makeup, the intersection between immigration and the social service sector and child welfare systems was also mentioned. Specifically, there was a discussion about how immigration status can prevent families from accessing services.

Moderator Dr. Juan Sánchez, El Presidente/CEO Southwest Key Programs, Inc. National Council of La Raza Board of Directors Dr. Juan Sánchez is El Presidente/CEO of Southwest Key Programs, Inc., the fourth-largest Hispanic-led nonprofit organization in the country. Dr. Sánchez is a nationally recognized leader in the field of youth programming. He serves on the board of the National Council of La Raza and is an advisor to the Vera Institute of Justice and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.

Panelists Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President The White House Domestic Policy Council Roberto Rodríguez serves on the White House Domestic Policy Council as Special Assistant to President Obama on education. Previously, he was Chief Education Counsel to United States Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D—MA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Dr. Francisco Villarruel, Professor of Family and Child Ecology Michigan State University Dr. Francisco Villarruel, a University Outreach Fellow and a Professor of Family and Child Ecology at Michigan State University (MSU), is the Acting Director of MSU’s Latino research center—the Julian Samora Research Institute. His research focus is generalized into three areas: Latino youth and families, positive youth development, and developmental contextualism.

Beatrice Garza, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans Beatrice Garza is the President and CEO of the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA). Prior to AAMA, she served as the Executive General Manager for Human Resources at the Houston Independent School District, the seventh-largest school district in the country and one of the largest employers in Houston.



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Dr. Sánchez opened the afternoon panel with a challenge to audience members to help create the opportunities young Latinos need to succeed in life. Equating education with success, he noted that close to 50% of Latinos drop out of high school, meaning that nearly 50% of Latino youth will not have the opportunity to fulfill their potential and accomplish their dreams. For many youth, not doing well in school leads directly to the juvenile justice system, a system that is ineffective in addressing the specific needs of Latino youth. Mr. Rodriguez noted that President Obama approaches education from an economic as well as a moral imperative and views education reform as a strategy for helping Latino students and their families reach their goals. The United States must reevaluate its educational priorities not only to remain competitive globally, but also to ensure that all children reach their full potential and realize the American Dream. Helping students reach these goals includes a commitment to early learning opportunities, K–12 education reform, and creating pathways to higher education.

• Early Childhood Education. Despite research indicating the importance of high-quality early

childhood opportunities, Latino children are not spending as much time in child care and preschool education as their non-Latino peers. To address this, the Obama administration developed the Early Learning Challenge Fund, a $10 billion, ten-year commitment to improving the quality of early learning programs for our youngest children, particularly for those in low-income families.

• K–12 Education Reform. President Obama has challenged states to commit to more rigorous

and relevant academic standards that help high school students graduate college- and career-ready. Through the Race to the Top (RTT) fund, the government is working to develop an education reform framework that includes high standards, effective teaching, and support for struggling schools. Included in this reform is a focus on assessments that provide a picture of student achievement and growth and on the placement of more highly qualified and effective teachers, who are of utmost importance to English language learners (ELLs). Addressing the dropout crisis is of particular concern, especially given that nearly 50% of students do not graduate high school, and just 2,000 schools account for half of the nation’s dropouts.

Dr. Villarruel called for reform of the United States’ juvenile justice system from the current punitive model to one that facilitates young people’s successful transition to adulthood. However, despite juvenile justice programs’ inability to rehabilitate youth, they continue to receive funding. Many Latino youth in the juvenile system are not new immigrants, but rather third- and fourth-generation Americans. More than 100,000 Latino youth reside in adult prison facilities, a statistic which underrepresents the total number of Latino youth in the system, partly as a result of ineffective data collection. Dr. Villarruel concluded by challenging the audience to assess their responsibility to ensure that incarcerated youth access the resources and developmental opportunities they need to survive and succeed.

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Breakout Session Disproportionate Minority Contact and Latinos in the Juvenile Justice System Discussion Leader Maricela Garcia, Director, Capacity-Building National Council of La Raza Featured Presenter Dr. Juan Sánchez, El Presidente/CEO Southwest Key Programs, Inc. Following a short presentation by the featured presenter, the participants divided into four groups to address the following two questions: If we were to reform the juvenile justice system, how would it look? What steps are necessary to make that change happen? The groups addressed the questions from a holistic perspective. Participants felt that the ideal juvenile justice system would provide community and system staff education, address reentry effectively, be linguistically and culturally competent, have community alternatives to incarceration, provide holistic services for youth, and be accountable. There was general agreement among participants that in order to achieve the system they want to see, the following need to occur: 1) the community needs to understand their rights with regards to the system and to mobilize to demand the necessary changes; 2) accountability needs to be built into the system by establishing a standard of care and service provision; and 3) the system needs to be holistic and provide wraparound services for youth. Participants felt that creating some type of awareness campaign that targeted community members with information about their rights was particularly important.

Ms. Garza leads the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA), a community-based organization in Texas that provides educational opportunities to Latino youth as a means to prevent incarceration. In addition to providing services, Ms. Garza noted the need to determine and ultimately change the root issues that are causing Latino children to “act up” in and drop out of school. AAMA offers a number of resources to Latino youth including wraparound services, workforce programs, a residential program, and a pediatric clinic that cares for the whole child. The AAMA charter school works with students for whom traditional school settings aren’t effective and provides them a caring, holistic education setting to ensure that they receive their diploma or GED and have an opportunity to succeed in life.



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Breakout Session

Breakout Session

Responding to the Needs of Diverse Young Learners

Improving the Odds for Immigrant Students

Discussion Leader Liany Elba Arroyo, Associate Director, Education and Children’s Policy Project National Council of La Raza

Discussion Leader Raul Gonzalez, Director, Legislative Affairs National Council of La Raza

Featured Presenters Erika Beltran, Policy Analyst, Education and Children’s Policy Project National Council of La Raza

Featured Presenters Josef Lukan, Policy Analyst, Education and Children’s Policy Project National Council of La Raza

Davida McDonald, Director of State Policy National Association for the Education of Young Children

Maria Tukeva, Principal Columbia Heights Educational Campus

The majority of session participants were NCLR Affiliates with programs in early childhood education (ECE). Additionally, some youth and individuals with a policy background were present. Given the large number of service providers, the conversation focused on the delivery of ECE services to Latino communities. As expected, those with direct-service expertise focused on recommendations that improved services for the community, while policy experts focused on macro-level policy solutions. Ultimately, the participants reached consensus on the opportunities and barriers for Latino children.

A diverse group of individuals participated in this session, the majority of whom were education policy experts and advocates. However, there was a large group of students from a National Council of La Raza Affiliate, which provided context to the public policy-focused conversation. The focus of the discussion, the political atmosphere concerning high school reform and English language learners (ELLs), was framed by the presentations of NCLR staff and an NCLR Affiliate.

A brief overview of the ECE policy landscape by the two featured presenters led to a conversation that focused on improving access to—and the quality of—ECE services for Latinos. In the short term, participants saw an opportunity in securing the passage of the Early Learning Challenge Fund. Challenges focused on increasing funding to expand access to quality services currently provided, and on providing services that meet the needs of English language learners. Participants noted the intersection between health and ECE and immigration and ECE. Specifically, poor access to health care impacts the ability of children to enroll in ECE programs. Given the high rates of uninsurance in the community and the barriers to accessing health care, ECE providers face challenges as it relates to obtaining health screenings for children. Further compounding access to ECE programs for Latinos is immigration status and the effect it has on enrollment and perception of eligibility for services.

Overall, there was consensus among the participants regarding the need for more robust family engagement in education. However, there was discussion regarding the testing requirements for immigrant students, with some participants feeling that the requirements were onerous. Others felt that testing was necessary; ensuring that immigrant students are included in accountability systems would result in educators placing a greater focus on them. In spite of a general lack of consensus, the group did have many areas of commonality, including the need to scale-up promising programs through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While participants acknowledged the necessity of culturally and linguistically appropriate approaches to working with immigrant and ELL students, they acknowledged the difficulty in legislating this. Finally, session participants noted the intersection between poverty and educating immigrant and ELL students. Specifically, the vast majority of immigrant and ELL students attend school in high-poverty areas that have fewer resources due to the current system of school financing.



Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings

Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth | Proceedings



Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation National Council of La Raza

¹ U.S. Census Bureau, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009. Conducted by the Population Division of the U.S. Census Bureau. Washington, DC, 2010, (accessed October 14, 2010). ² Ibid. Percentage calculated by NCLR. ³ U.S. Census Bureau, Facts for Features, “Hispanic Heritage Month 2010: Sept.15—Oct.15,” news release, July 15, 2010.

Eric Rodriguez is Vice President at the National Council of La Raza where he heads NCLR’s Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation. In this capacity he leads and manages a team that oversees the institution’s legislative affairs, public policy research, policy analysis, and field advocacy work. He oversees a public policy shop that includes six major departments and five issue-based public policy projects that cover issues such as health, economics and employment, civil rights and criminal justice, immigration, children and education, and wealth-building.

Mr. Rodriguez concluded the forum by thanking the sponsors, the attendees−particularly the youth−and the NCLR staff who organized the program. He also took time to highlight the need for a comprehensive approach for addressing the situation that Latino youth face given their multifaceted challenges. Critical to addressing those challenges is remembering to listen to Latino children and youth. Finally, he noted that our work is a journey and as time progresses the challenges will move behind us and the aspirations we have for Latino children and youth will be closer.

The Migrant Project

⁴ NCLR calculation using U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2009 American Community Survey, http://factfinder. (accessed October 14, 2010). ⁵ Mark Mather and Patricia Foxen, America’s Future: Latino Child Well-Being in Numbers and Trends (Washington, DC: National Council of La Raza, 2010). ⁶ U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2008 American Community Survey. Washington, DC, 2009, http://factfinder. (accessed October 18, 2010). ⁷ Mark Mather and Patricia Foxen, America’s Future. ⁸ Ibid. ⁹ Christopher B. Swanson, “Progress Postponed: Graduation Rate Continues Decline” in Diplomas Count 2010 (Washington, DC: Education Week, 2010), Digital_Edition.pdf?r=1851131211 (accessed August 31, 2010).

Photographic Exhibits

¹⁰ Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, “2007 National Survey of Children’s Health,” Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health, (accessed October 18, 2010).

At the conclusion of the forum, two photographic exhibits of individuals often invisible in society—families engaged in farm labor and children in the juvenile justice system—were presented. Rick Nahmias, photographer of the migrant farmworker families, described his exhibit, “The Migrant Project,” during his remarks. His images tell the story of the human costs associated with feeding America. Steve Liss, while unable to join us, provided photos from his exhibit, “No Place for Children: Voices from Juvenile Detention,” which offer a stark reminder of the harsh realities that children face when involved in the nation’s juvenile justice system.

¹¹ Thomas P. Bonczar, Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1975-2001. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, DC, 2003, (accessed October 18, 2010). ¹² U.S. Department of Labor, “Economic Situation Summary.” Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic News Release. Washington, DC, August 2010,, (accessed September 17, 2010), Table A-3. ¹³ Debbie Gruenstein Bocian, Wei Li, and Keith S. Ernst, Foreclosures by Race and Ethnicity: The Demographics of a Crisis (Washington, DC: Center for Responsible Lending, 2010), research-analysis/foreclosures-by-race-and-ethnicity.html (accessed August 26, 2010). ¹⁴ Nicholas Johnson, Phil Oliff, and Erica Williams, An Update on State Budget Cuts: At Least 46 States Have Imposed Cuts That Hurt Vulnerable Residents and the Economy (Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2010), http:// (accessed August 18, 2010).


Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth—Proceedings  

As Latino children and youth continue to drive the growth of the Latino community and the nation as a whole, these publications provide an o...

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