Leticia Monroy: There Is No Perfect Child

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For young families, especially those of color, early childhood learning problems can be especially stressful as they try to juggle school, work and family. Leticia Monroy has this Perspective.

I received many calls from my son’s preschool asking me to pick him up early. His challenging behavior was disruptive, and they had tried every resource available to support him as best as they could. With interrupted days in care, he missed valuable time in school. The whole situation was stressful. I thought about the cause of his behaviors. Many “what if’” scenarios overwhelmed my thoughts as he faced risk for being removed from preschool.

Suspended? At age 3? Was that possible?

I wondered about my options without care. As a full‐time student and worker, I had to think about what financial cuts I needed to make to care for my child. Fortunately, the center my child attended provided social‐emotional support. With the assistance of his teachers and mental health consultant, we addressed his needs. He stayed in school and my son thrived.

My experience made me reflect on other children and families of color in early learning programs today who are at risk of suspension or expulsion. It's alarming to learn from the U.S. Department of Education, that Black and Latinx children specifically boys are expelled or suspended at higher rates than whites in early learning programs due to challenging behaviors. Black boys make up 18% of the male preschool enrollment, but 41% of male preschool suspensions according to the Civil Rights Data Collection. The national Survey of Children’s Health found that an estimated 50,000 children under five were suspended, and 17,000 were expelled, across the nation in 2016.

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For a family, removing services that they rely on to support their basic needs creates more problems. It adds additional stress when looking for alternative care and affects parents’ capacity to maintain a job when they have to balance parental and financial obligations. This pressure can develop harmful effects on children and damage parent‐child relationships.

I believe that creating strategies that keep children in school start with helping them learn to identify and respond to their emotions. This will form healthier relationships with other children and adults. I trust that meeting these needs early in life can form the foundation for a healthy adult life and a successful educational path.

With a Perspective, I am Leticia Monroy.

Leticia Monroy is a first generation Latinx graduate student at UC Berkeley who also works in an early learning program serving children and families across the Bay Area.