Whittier College Receives Grant From HHS

October 1, 2010

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation has awarded Whittier College a grant for $102,000 to support educational research in the pre-school level. The study, "Exploring Child Care Cultural Congruency: Predictors and Pathways to Social and Emotional Outcomes in Kindergarten," will be led by education and child development professor Kay Sanders.

"I proudly support this grant and know that the bright minds at Whittier College will contribute greatly to the cultural and emotional understanding of our children," said Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (D-39), a longtime champion of student support. "When we nurture a child's culture and emotional needs, we invest in extraordinary learning opportunities."

Dr. Sanders' research will analyze information from the 1997 Family & Child Experiences Survey Head Start study to look at how cultural practices at home and in child care coincide to benefit children from low-income families. In particular the study will look at whether issues associated with cultural diversity and cultural responsiveness influence children's outcomes, particularly children's readiness for school. 

"In the past, the impact and influence of cultural aspects has not been a focus of inquiry at the child care level. In the child care research field presently, there is quite a bit of talk about the quality of child care and how quality relates to children's well-being. Many of the ways in which quality is measured in child care fails to find strong evidence for a connection between high quality care and children's outcomes," said Dr. Sanders.

"Our research will contribute to this important issue by examining how, for example, relationships are built between a teacher and a child in child care, or how the diversity of routines in children's child care experiences connects with children's successful functioning in an elementary school environment. By doing this work, we will be able to focus the lens on the importance of context in children's preliminary school experiences — something that child care research on quality has not emphasized in former years."

Dr. Sanders has extensive applied and research experience in national and state subsidized child care programs for low-income families. Prior to Whittier College, she worked with child care programs as a teacher and later as a site supervisor and program director in Head Start and state subsidized child care programs for low-income families. In addition, Dr. Sanders has written at length on culture and development in child care. 

"The research that Kay and her team are undertaking has the potential of helping early-childhood educators better meet the needs of all children entering our schools. Whittier College fosters a learning environment that helps our faculty to excel at this type of research," said Dr. Charlotte Borst, Whittier's dean of faculty. 

The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) is a unit within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). OPRE is responsible for advising the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of programs to improve the economic and social well-being of children and families.