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As NH's childcare worker shortage continues, immigrant women train to become the next providers

This group of Latinas completed a course to get involved in the childcare field. Among them is Erica Cuevas (first row - left), who was an early childhood educator back in Mexico. She said childcare must be a holistic service to raise more confident and successful children. “Everything goes hand in hand: care, work, trust, and culture.”
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
This group of Latinas completed a course to get involved in the childcare field. Among them is Erica Cuevas (first row - left), who was an early childhood educator back in Mexico. She said childcare must be a holistic service to raise more confident and successful children. “Everything goes hand in hand: care, work, trust, and culture.”

Eloina Alvarado has an early childhood education degree from a college in her home country of Honduras, but the urgency to make a living and difficulties validating her foreign credentials have kept her from pursuing that career in New Hampshire.

As the need for more child care professionals deepens in the state, Alvarado says immigrant women, who have childcare experience and credentials from their countries of origin, can help fill the gap.

“If we open a daycare, we will be supporting other Latino moms,” she said. “And any other [family] who needs it.”

Alvarado is one of nine women who recently graduated from a four-week program in Spanish offered by the Community Training Engagement Center in Nashua to add more Latinas to this workforce. Along with support from United Way of Greater Nashua and funding from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, they equipped this group of women with tools to become in-home care providers or open their own daycare centers.

Angela Mercado, director of the Community Training Engagement Center, says the course covers the legal requirements to be a childcare provider, such as zoning laws or landlord requisites, as well as emergency planning, child development theory, and safety measures.

She says the course is also geared toward Latinas who may not have a college degree but want to start a career.

Emily Mercado, who is Mercado's daughter and an English and citizenship teacher at the organization, said women in her community have already been providing care informally for friends, family, and neighbors. But this training is an opportunity to professionalize those skills.

Emily Mercado (right) helps Eloina Alvarado (left) learn CPR.
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Emily Mercado (right) helps Eloina Alvarado (left) learn infant CPR.

Ana Maria Uraña takes care of her grandchildren and teaches at a local church. Although starting a career excites her, she said what really motivates her to work in childcare is the possibility of helping Latino children who don't speak English feel safe and comfortable in a home-based center.

“[In a place where] they can be themselves,” she said. “Otherwise they feel alone, confused and that traumatizes them.”

The scarce number of bilingual educators and caregivers worries Sandra Lopez, who moved from Mexico and was also a program participant. She’s a preschool teacher but wants to start her own childcare business. In her current role, she says she's the only teacher who speaks Spanish at her school, but many children do.

“You can see relief in their faces,” she said, when a teacher also speaks Spanish.

Angela Mercado said finding childcare is almost impossible for undocumented parents, so well-trained workers who can take care of their children are highly needed.

“There isn’t help for them. They can’t apply for the city’s programs, they are not eligible,” she said. “Neither are the children because they don’t have documentation.”

Maximina Ilario (left) practices CPR in the last class of the course. She lost her baby six months ago. The class was difficult because it brought her painful memories. “When my baby died, I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “Now I can share with other mothers, I can save a life since I couldn't save my son’s."
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Maximina Ilario (left) practices CPR in the last class of the course. She lost her baby six months ago. The class was difficult because it brought her painful memories. “When my baby died I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “Now I can share with other mothers, I can save a life since I couldn't save my son’s.

Kile Adumene, co-director of the Manchester Community Action Coalition, says there is a big gap in bilingual childcare providers. Last year, her organization also offered a similar course with women ranging from 18 to 70 years old, many of whom arrived in New Hampshire as refugees from different African countries.

Adumene says providing this workforce training in a variety of languages will increase the number of culturally competent providers and empower older people who already do this at home for free.

“So they will not be depressed or ask for money from [their] kids,” she said.

She says caregivers from the children's same community "maximize the potential of kids,” but the information available on how to become a professional is limited due to language barriers.

Normally these courses are quite expensive, according to Liz Fitzgerald, director of community impact at United Way of Greater Nashua. She said the state needs similar initiatives in cities with growing diversity. She said if New Hampshire doesn't invest in training more people soon, the decrease in pandemic-era funding will result in this service being out of reach for many families in the next few years.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.
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