December 1998 // Volume 36 // Number 6 // Feature Articles // 6FEA4

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Keys to Building Successful Training Programs for Hispanic Family Day Care Providers

Hispanic women have shown the most rapid gains in labor force participation since the 1980s. Ohio State University Extension in Cleveland, Ohio targeted training programs to Hispanic family day care providers. The article outlines critical factors for success. They include understanding the importance of Hispanic culture, values, and attitudes; becoming familiar with personalism and familism, using day care as an employment strategy for Hispanic women, and developing culturally relevant nutrition lessons.

Marisa B. Warrix
Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
Internet address:

Margarita Bocanegra
Educator, Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program
Internet address:

Ohio State University Extension
Cuyahoga County
Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Extension has served Hispanic clients in a variety of ways over the past 50 years. Subject matter areas include foods and nutrition (predominantly through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program), youth development, and general agriculture and home economics (Brandsburg, 1991). Some states have developed curricula, translated materials, and hosted Spanish radio programs or created videotapes to better serve this clientele. The number of Hispanic staff varies from state to state, as does the extent of programming.

By the year 2000, Hispanics will outnumber African-Americans and become the "majority minority." This rapidly growing population has a high percentage of very young children and a relatively large number of women of childbearing age (Delgado 1980). Hispanic women have higher birth rates than African- American and Caucasian women.

While women's increased participation in the labor force has been well documented, Hispanic women have shown the most rapid gains since the 1980s (Cattan, 1988). Continuous increase in the number of Hispanic females in the work force will have a tremendous impact on child care services. More recently, the urgency to move women off the welfare role will impact child care services and create employment opportunities for Hispanic women as family child care providers.

Since 1989, over 500 Hispanic family day care providers have participated in training sponsored by Ohio State University Extension in Cleveland. The following article outlines critical factors for success in developing day care training workshops for Hispanics. These factors include understanding the importance of Hispanic culture, values, and attitudes; becoming familiar with personalism and familism; using day care as an employment strategy; increasing Hispanic involvement in Extension programming; and developing culturally relevant nutrition lessons. This article focuses on one Extension county's effort to develop educational programming that targets Hispanic women.


In the late 1980s, Ohio Legislative Rep. Jane Campbell identified a critical need for formalized family day care provider training. She called upon Extension's Family and Consumer Sciences agents to take a leadership role in training. Ohio family day care providers have maintained their U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food approval by mandatory participation in a nutrition class once a year. Sponsors recommended that providers seek additional training in first aid, business administration, record keeping, child abuse, communicable diseases, and child development. Extension agents were well trained to teach all of these subjects, or partner with others.

In Cuyahoga County, 57% of families currently send their children to family day care facilities (personal communication, March 15, 1997). Approximately 200 of the 2,000 women who provide care are Hispanic and the number is growing. For Hispanic providers in Cleveland culturally appropriate training conducted in Spanish had not been available in local communities. In the absence of such programs, Extension became involved.

One cultural factor that affects successful programming with Hispanic populations is the involvement of a committed bilingual staff member or volunteer who can provide ongoing communication and serve as a liaison to the Hispanic community. The county has an Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) nutrition educator on staff with 24 years of experience in the Hispanic community. This nutrition educator is also employed part time with Ohio's largest USDA Family Day Care Food sponsor. Through EFNEP contacts, the nutrition educator has recruited many Hispanic women to become family day care providers.

In 1989, legislation passed requiring the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to test innovative approaches to removing or reducing barriers to participation in the Child Care and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP) regarding family and group day care operating in low-income neighborhoods (Kuchak, 1993). Barriers identified were culture, language, education, the cost of recruiting and retaining low-income providers, and obtaining certification or alternate approval.

The USDA selected the Ohio Hunger Task Force sponsor as a demonstration site to help overcome these barriers in two Cleveland neighborhoods. The East Side neighborhood goal was to develop a higher retention rate of existing providers. The near West Side of Cleveland largely consisted of Hispanics with a low participation rate in organized day care. The West Side project made identifying and recruiting new Hispanic providers its goal. A mentor program was developed to support providers, help them to adjust, and enable them to achieve retention. This demonstration project set the stage for the development of an organized and motivated group of women with whom Extension would work.

The Hispanic/Latino Culture

Another important factor in working with Hispanics is understanding and identifying the subgroup to be served. Hispanics represent a mix of historical and cultural backgrounds. Groups vary in socioeconomic status, culture, and language. The three largest groups are Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, and Cuban (Delgado, 1980). In Cleveland, the dominant Hispanic group is of Puerto Rican heritage. Puerto Ricans began arriving in Cleveland after World War II as farms and factories recruited them for jobs. It is important to realize that Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, which makes Puerto Ricans United States citizens.

Hispanic families often have value systems that are different from each other and from those of Anglo families (Arce & Torres-Matrullo, 1978; Castro, 1977). Adherence to traditional values and beliefs varies in degree. Even a modern Hispanic family differs considerably from today's average family. The traditional role of manhood and womanhood in Hispanic culture also plays a role in the success of training programs.

The Hispanic family is often patriarchal, with male heads of the house fulfilling a strong authoritarian role. Male dominance, known as "machismo," is a socially constructed, learned, and reinforced set of behaviors comprising the content of male gender roles in Latino society (De la Cancela, 1986). Many Hispanic males prefer that their wives stay home with the children. Becoming a family day care provider allows these women the opportunity to bring in some income for the family without compromising the male's role as the breadwinner, thus possibly helping to maintain the home's cultural harmony.

The importance of culture in child development is widely recognized in the human services field. The Hispanic family is the most important vehicle for the transmission of values and beliefs. Many child care programs have encountered difficulty in recruiting Hispanic children because of language differences and cultural factors (Delgado & Scott, 1979). Research emphasizes that successful childcare for Hispanic children should focus on private homes rather than institutions. Within the traditional Hispanic culture, the function of child care has remained in the family. Parents view Hispanic family day care providers as extended family members. Parents also feel more comfortable and can exercise more control (Delgado, 1980).

Personalism and familism are key values present in the Hispanic culture. Personalism refers to the faith in person-to- person contact. In other words, there is no substitute for "face- to-face" interaction. Educators need to "personalize" their programming to reach out to the community. Familism refers to the central position that a family holds in the life of the individual. All decisions by the individual are made with regard to the well-being of the family. As a result, sometimes parents tend to be overprotective of their children, thereby limiting their children's ability to "expand their horizons" (Marsiglia, 1990). Personalism and familism also play a very important role in family day care. Parents need the assurance that the day care provider understands the value of the person-to-person interaction with their children and that the parents themselves should be considered the central influence in the child's life.

Nutrition Component

Effective educational design must be appropriate. Nutrition education serves as an example. Each sub-group consumes similar foods with different names. For example, dried beans and rice are staples among most Hispanics. Puerto Ricans refer to legumes or beans as habichuelas, while Mexicans call them frijoles. Correct food terminology and pronunciations help educators to avoid mistakes when referring to cultural foods. Spanish Food Guide Pyramids are available containing both English/Hispanic foods translated into Spanish.

The following steps are involved in the culture's adaptation: First, have a knowledgeable staff member identify some specific cultural foods. Second, have the staff member accompany you to a Hispanic grocery store to help you to become familiar with the foods. Third, acknowledge these foods as part of the provider's diet during the lesson, and then teach the provider where the foods fit into the Food Guide Pyramid. For example, root vegetables, called viandas (i.e., yucca, yautía, nãme, or malanga), are staples in a Puerto Rican diet.

The 5-a-Day program is an important nutrition lesson that can introduce providers to a wider variety of more nutrient-dense vegetables like dark leafy greens and broccoli. Children who participate in the day care program will benefit from the addition of new foods that will broaden their nutritional base. In addition, knowledge of produce alternatives will allow providers more options for grocery shopping and price comparison in relation to nutritional value and taste.

Cultural Barriers

Cultural barriers identifies included:

  1. Education levels. Hispanics tend to have less education than other ethnic groups. (Caudle, 1993).

  2. Language barriers. According to the 1990 census, 78% of American Hispanics speak Spanish at home. Bilingual staff is important and classes need to be taught in Spanish.

  3. Poverty. Approximately 23% of Hispanic families live below the poverty level, and Puerto Ricans have the lowest income of the three major sub-groups. Therefore, affordable day care classes are essential.

  4. Lack of understanding of the American free enterprise system. Language and cultural differences leave many Hispanics with little understanding of certain basic skills and concepts to operate a day care business, (for example, marketing, tax laws, record keeping).

  5. Misunderstanding of cultural values. Cultural values, like personalism, familism, and machismo, must be understood and addressed.

Ways to Increase Hispanic Involvement in Day Care Programming

  1. Form partnerships with Hispanic agencies and community organizations to develop credibility with the clientele.

  2. Translate program flyers and registration materials into Spanish to increase attendance.

  3. Schedule Hispanic neighborhood events that are easily accessible via public transportation. Consider transportation time and costs as potential burdens for economically disadvantaged groups.

  4. Develop a mailing list of providers and invite them to participate in other Extension programs.

  5. Schedule training times to fit day care providers' schedules. Saturdays or evenings are usually preferred.

  6. Locate translated Spanish materials or develop your own educational materials with a translator.

  7. Know which Hispanic subgroup you are working with (i.e., Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Chicanos, and South or Central Americans). Incorporate specific foods or dishes into the nutrition component of the training.

  8. Organize focus groups with Hispanic providers to determine topics for future programs.

  9. Ask a bilingual staff member to contact the providers the week before the program and remind them that their attendance is important.

  10. Place a Hispanic representative on the Extension Advisory Committee to make them aware of your efforts.

  11. Conduct diversity training with staff members in an effort to broaden their knowledge, and involve them in more programming with Hispanic clientele.

Other Considerations in Conducting Programs for Hispanic Communities

  1. Ask professionals who speak Spanish to present training classes. There are often proportionately few professionals available from some populations. An effective approach to this challenge might be networking with other agencies.

  2. Select an appropriate Spanish curriculum. Use the Internet to search for resources. Contact Extension agents in states with large Hispanic populations.

  3. Arrange for appropriate translations.

  4. Use classroom interpreters. Enlist bilingual and biculturally trained individuals who are native speakers and are aware of cultural implications.

  5. Convince participants that they are welcome. Consider experiences with discrimination that may cause potential participants to distrust the objectives or question the value of the program.


Culturally sensitive, quality day care training is needed by the growing Hispanic population. Extension agents must understand the cultural factors that affect a population in order to develop effective training programs that will empower women and provide them with the skills to function in the day care business. Extension agents need to view culture as an enabler rather than a resistant force. Extension agents' failure to understand Hispanic culture, values, and attitudes will ultimately result in under- used program services. Extension's training efforts with Hispanic day care providers in Cleveland have proven to be successful. Providers view Extension as a user-friendly agency that meets their social and cultural needs.


Arce, A. A., & Torres-Matrullo, C. (1978). Acculturation: A prime factor in mental health of Hispanics. Roche Reports: Frontiers of Psychiatry, 12 (1), 5-6.

Brandsberg, G. T. (1991). How Extension is serving Spanish- speaking clients in the United States. Paper presented at the National Extension Technology Conference, Hershey, PA.

Castro, F. G. (1977). Levels of acculturation and related considerations in psychotherapy with Spanish speaking surnamed clients. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Cattan, P. (1988). "The growing presence of Hispanics in the U.S. work force." Monthly LaborReview 8: 9-14.

Caudle, P. (1993). "Providing culturally sensitive health care to Hispanic clients." Nurse Practitioner 10 (12):43-51.

De la Cancela. (1986). A critical analysis of Puerto Rican machismo: Implications for clinical practice. Psychotherapy, 23 (2),291-296.

Delgado, M. (1980). Providing childcare services for Hispanic families. Young Children 9:26-31.

Delgado, M. & Scott, T. F. (1979). Strategic intervention: A mental health program for the Hispanic community. Journal of Community Psychology, 7,187-91.

Kuchak, J. (1993). Low-income family day care home demonstration. U. S. Department of Agriculture (Final Report). Alexandria, Va.

Marsiglia, F.F. (1990). The ethnic warriors: Ethnic identity and school achievement as perceived by a selected group of mainland Puerto Rican students. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland.