In response to community concerns, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) studied the need for culturally responsive preschool programs to serve immigrant and refugee families in the Portland Metropolitan area. IRCO works to support the needs of immigrant and refugee children and their families and developed the first culturally specific early learning program in 1992. IRCO spoke with 90 participants representing Nepali Bhutanese, Burmese, Congolese, Somali, Iraqi, Latino, Pacific Islander, Slavic, and Vietnamese communities.
These focus groups described their difficulty accessing resources and supports as a result of language barriers, and the lack of affordable child care to accommodate their schedules. Income and work requirements and a lack of transportation make it difficult for families to access preschool. Families also voiced fears that their culture, language, and traditions could be lost when their children enter U.S. schools. Culturally responsive preschool programs that take families’ linguistic and cultural needs into account and create partnerships between schools and families can begin to address these concerns.