Preparing early childhood providers (ECP) to effectively meet the needs of socioculturally and linguistically diverse children and families is necessary in early childhood personnel preparation and professional development programs (Rueda & Stillman, 2012). However, research shows that many providers continue to have difficulty engaging families and fostering collaborative partnerships, particularly for children receiving early intervention and special education services (Fialka, 2001). This study explored early childhood providers’ self-identified practice dilemmas and corresponding problem solving strategies related to socioculturally responsive and family centered practices.
Focus groups using the Critical Friends Group protocol were conducted with graduates from two Southeastern universities. Participants discussed the challenges they experience in their practice working with diverse young children and their families. Participant dilemmas included: (a) challenges with developing relationships and building rapport with families; (b) challenging interactions with families; (c) family engagement; (d) dealing with parent denial; (e) inadequate resources; (f) communication challenges; and (g) dealing with cultural differences. Study results revealed how these dilemmas relate to Skilled Dialogue through third space theory. Results specific to participants’ problem solving strategies were compared to DEC recommended practices focused on family centered practices, which indicated the majority of the problem solving strategies aligned well with DEC recommended practices. Findings from this study provided additional information about the challenges early childhood providers experience related to meeting the needs of diverse children and their families. Participants’ dilemmas of practice emphasized the disconnect between knowing about socioculturally responsive, family centered practice and having the resources, support, and strategies to implement them in community based settings serving young diverse children and their families. Gaining a better understanding of the resources and supports early childhood providers rely on and need to solve these dilemmas can inform personnel preparation programs to foster effective problem-solving skills and an increased sense of professional efficacy.