Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Regena Nelson

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Third Advisor

Dr. Ancell Scheker


Early childhood education, attendance, public policy, early childhood education and care, governmental programs


In 2013, the Dominican government began the implementation of a national plan called Quisqueya Empieza Contigo (QEC) (Exec. Order No. 102, 2013), aimed to fulfill the needs of children zero to five years old holistically. The National Institute of Comprehensive Care (INAIPI, acronym in Spanish) carries two of the most ambitious programs embedded in this national plan. Early Childhood is the governmental institution authorized to carry out this recent intervention. The intervention has increased coverage of early childhood services through two programs: Programmed Comprehensive Family Care centered on the community (Centro de Atención Familiar e Infancia, [CAFI]) and the Comprehensive Care Centers for Early Childhood (Centros de Atención Integral a la Primera Infancia, [CAIPI]). Studies on issues concerning Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) are very limited in the Dominica Republic (D.R.), and those that have been conducted mostly focus on quantitative outcomes, such as enrollment rates. The purpose of this study was to understand how mothers, fathers, and guardians of students enrolled in Dominican ECEC programs make decisions regarding their children’s enrollment and attendance in the governmental intervention called CAIPI. The overarching research question guiding this study is what influences mothers’, fathers’, and guardians’ decisions about enrollment and attendance in early childhood education for their children.

This qualitative study was conducted in the urban area of the D.R., where the CAIPI centers have operated for at least one year. This study, which was conducted in Santo Domingo and National District, engaged a criterion sample of mothers, fathers, and guardians whose children either have attended to the CAIPI regularly or had low rates of attendance. The 16 participants were recruited based on the distance they live from the ECEC intervention site. I conducted semi-structured in-depth interviews with parents or guardians per family, and the unit of analysis was low-income families experience using CAIPI.

Findings from this study informed program managers and policy leaders about the central beliefs and expectations that Dominican low-income families have about the CAIPI program. According to these study findings, both low and regular attendance categorized family’s beliefs that CAIPI is important for their children. Also, factors influencing families’ decisions regarding sending their child to CAIPI are usually: (a) number of children, (b) distance of the center, (c) money constraints, (d) CAIPI help to find a school for the child, and (e) being a working mother or single mother. Regarding families’ decisions about attendance, most of the participants of this study express that the child’s health is the main limitation for the child to attend CAIPI. Finally, the circumstances that seem to contribute most to children’s attendance to CAIPI are being a single parent and having a job. On the other hand, conditions that often detract from children’s attendance are children’s health and the number of people at home available to take care of the child.

Themes in this study are (a) Program’s relevance; (b) Barriers for attendance; and (c) Child’s wellbeing as the main purpose. Analyzing findings from both Ecological Theory and Social Justice Theory reveals aspects related to the scarcity of resources in which participants of this study and its potential harm to these children’s lives. Other studies are needed to better understand this and other aspects, such as public policies funding ECEC intervention in the country. Recommendations are twofold. First, considering that research regarding ECEC are limited in the local context, several ideas about studies examining the multidimensional aspects of the system are discussed. Second, some programs and policy recommendations are proposed, given that the holistic ECEC system approach was recently stabilized in the D.R.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access