chris-ellisby Chris Ellis
Director of Early Learning

As we work with our partners to increase access to quality early childhood education programs, one challenge we encounter is connecting with refugee families. Last year, this challenge resulted in a low number of refugee children attending a high-quality early learning program. This year, our goal was to develop a strategy that would allow us to more genuinely establish connections with refugee families and communicate the importance of early childhood education, ultimately getting more children enrolled in high-quality early learning programs.

A key component of this year’s strategy was hiring three Early Learning Navigators at organizations that support refugee families: Asian Association of Utah, Catholic Community Services, and International Rescue Committee. The Early Learning Navigators were hired to address two chief barriers that refugee families face when enrolling their children in high-quality early childhood programs. First, lack of information that they can readily understand and second, lack of familiarity and trust with the individual delivering the message.

The Early Learning Navigators were hired because they already had close relationships with refugee families and two of them are refugees themselves. This connection allowed them to understand the barriers refugee families face when enrolling children into these programs. To strengthen these families’ understanding of the importance of early childhood education, the Early Learning Navigators conduct home visits, host outreach events, and visit the schools where preschool programs occur. This multi-faceted approach gives refugee families the opportunity to discuss the program with their peers, see the program in action, and better understand the importance of early childhood education. Since this summer, these individuals have been working directly with families and have experienced tremendous results!

Early Learning Navigators have enrolled more than 50 refugee children in high-quality preschool and have met with several other families to discuss the importance of early childhood education. Navigators have excelled at and enjoyed developing relationships with families and providing this much needed support.

We are grateful for the Early Learning Navigators and their commitment to supporting refugee families. They provide a great example of what it means to LIVE UNITED!