Optimizing Home-School Collaboration: Strategies for School Psychologists and Latino Parent Involvement for Positive Mental Health Outcomes

Article excerpt

Public schools across the United States are experiencing an increase in Cultural and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) students, particularly those of Latino descent. Latino children are at a highrisk for mental health problems (i.e., depression, anxiety, risk of suicide, etc.) and face greater risk factors when compared to many of their ethnic counterparts. School psychologists are in a unique position to support their mental health needs. However, in order to enhance mental health outcomes, home-school collaboration becomes fundamental, particularly when working with Latino families. This article will examine Latino parent definitions and educator expectations of parental involvement in school systems. Home-school collaborative inhibitors (barriers), as perceived by Latino parents, will be examined and discussed. Epstein's Framework of Six Types of Involvement will be adopted as an outline for fostering and sustaining home-school collaboration and overcoming identified inhibitors. Culturally and linguistically appropriate strategies based on Epstein's framework will be examined. Implications for school psychologist and educators will be discussed.

KEYWORDS: Cultural and linguistic diversity (CLD), home-school collaboration, mental health, Latino, parental involvement, familismo, respeto, confianza, problem-solving model, ethnic validity, ecological perspective.

Public School Demographics

Public schools across the United States are becoming increasingly more diverse. The U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2008) reported that 49,293,000 children were enrolled in public schools (K-12) in 2007. Of this total, 43% were of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) backgrounds. In 2006 students enrolled in K-12 schools were identified in the following manner: 57% were non-Hispanic White, 19% were Hispanic/Latino, 16% were non-Hispanic Black, and 4% were Asian and Pacific Islander (NCES). In like manner, English Language Learners (ELLs) are becoming more common in public school systems. In 2002, 8% of all public school children were labeled ELLs (Capps et al., 2005). The top five languages spoken, by percentage, in the United States are: Spanish (79.2%), Vietnamese (2%), Hmong (1.6%), Cantonese (1%), and Korean (1%) (Kindler, 2005). Garcia and Cuellar (2006) estimated that 53% of all immigrant students were of Chicano/Latino ethnic decent. At the present time, the United States is at its most diverse point in all of its history.

Mental Health Issues in Diverse Populations

Prevalence rates of Latinos with psychiatric/mental health issues are estimated to be at 28.1% for men and 30.2% for women (Alegría et al. 2007). In a national cross-sectional study consisting of children in grades 6 to 10 (average ages 11 to 15), 22% of Latinos endorsed depressive symptoms compared to 18%) of all participants in the study which included African- Americans, Caucasians, American-Indians, and Asian-Americans (Saluja, lachan, Sheidt, Overpeck, Sun, & Giedd, 2004). Latinos reported higher symptoms of depression across all ethnic groups except for American-Indians, which stood at 29% (Saluja, lachan, et al, 2004). The effects of mental illness can have a negative impact on the academic success of students in general. However, Latinos are at even greater risk for negative academic impact or poor academic success. For example, in a national sample study of 2,532 CLD young adults ages 21 to 29 diagnosed with a mental health disorder, Latinos had an increased risk of dropping out of school as compared to non-Latino White students (Porche, Fortuna, Lin, & Alegría, 2011). Furthermore, in addition to negative academic impact, suicidality among Latinos has been identified as a significant concern. O'Donnel, O'Donnel, Wardlaw, and Stueve (2004) reported risk factors for suicide/suicide ideation among Latino and African- American children included depression, being female, having unmet basic needs, and engaging in same gender sexual relations. …