The Professional Learning Committee continues to review the FCC and Facility Licensing Rules as part of gathering resources to support providers. As part of this review we hit upon the requirement in the staff handbook that requires interpretation for English Language Learners.
This is not an area we have seen providers raising many questions about, but are also not seeing it addressed in policies we are seeing. We are wondering if providers have not picked up on it, as we had not in our previous readings of the Licensing Rule?
The diversity of Maine’s communities, whether urban or rural, continues to grow. This diversity is also being seen in the child care workforce, whether it’s staff or new programs being opened. With community changes providers are seeing the diversity of the children in care changing. The question becomes how we as small business owners address this diversity within our programs. Providing the service of child care we know that working with the child’s family is a major part of that we do. We want our client families to understand we are open to working together. Add in that best business practice tells us we should address our working practices within our policies. The PLC reached out to MRTQ PDN DC Marnie Morneault to discuss concerns of English Language Learners and some of the impact on providers and programs. As part of this discussion Licensing was also asked to clarify if the interpretation requirement was just for staff, as that was the only place we found it clearly required. Their response was that interpretation covered more than staff. It covered our work with children and communication with their parents/legal guardians. With this clarity the PLC felt it was important to provide sample language providers could use in their handbook covering interpretation.
The question became: “How do we make it clear that we welcome diversity and meet interpretation needs for English Language Learners (ELLs)?”
You might also see or be familiar with ELLs being referred to as: limited English proficient (LEP), Dual Language Learners (DLLs), home language, or primary language. In the past English as Second Language (ESL) was commonly used. That has changed with the recognition that many who are learning English already speak several other languages, so English would not be a “second” language.
What is language interpreting and translation?
Language interpreting is the conversion of one spoken language into another, where translation covers written language. Interpreting and translation also apply to the context of signed languages and tactile writing systems like Braille.
Looking beyond the child considering a child’s parents and/or your staff, they may have good conversational fluency in English, but may not be able to understand, discuss or read information proficiently in English. They may be reluctant to request or accept professional interpreting and translation services due to fear of costs, inconvenience, or concerns about confidentiality. We felt these barriers needed to be consider in development of policy language. Providers may already be addressing inclusion within a number of policies around children’s rights, parental communications, their program’s curriculum meeting individual child needs. Through continuing discussion specifically around language, the PLC thought it made sense for providers to add in simple, specific language that clearly mentioned working with English Language Learners. Working with Marnie we have 2 language versions that should meet that need.
If you have your handbook all updated for the new Licensing Rule, you can add this language as an addendum. If you print off your handbook you can now print off this language as a separate sheet and hand it out to parents. If you do your handbook online, it’s easier to make changes in the set-up. Make the change and then send an email with the link, verbally tell and/or note on your parent information board.
English Language Learners Policy (Families):
At ___ childcare we accept learners from all ethnic backgrounds. The primary language we communicate in is ____. If you communicate more comfortably in another language, please let us know. We will make every effort to make our materials and communications accessible for you in your home language. We will also incorporate your child’s language and culture into our visuals and communications as much as possible.
English Language Learners Policy (Staff):
At ____childcare we employ staff from all ethnic backgrounds. The primary language we communicate in is ______. If you communicate more comfortably in another language, please let us know. We will make every effort to make our materials and communications accessible for you in your home language.
Additional resources for providers looking for more information on this topic:
Dual Language Learners: Considerations and Strategies (Head Start/ECLKC)
Dual Language Learners Resources | Early Childhood (The National Center on Early Childhood Development)
Planned Language Approach: Tips for Getting Started (Head Start/ECLKC)