The month of February marked Black History Month – since 1976, a celebration designated to recognize the achievements of African Americans. Spending a month highlighting the many contributions black people bring to our society and add to our country is a good starting point — and it is just that, a starting point.
At All Faiths Children’s Advocacy Center, a disproportionately high percentage of clients come from communities of color, which highlights the social injustices in our society in general and the child welfare system in particular. As trusted advocates for children and families affected by trauma, it is our responsibility to be inclusive and equitable. The concept of diversity has to be in the forefront of our thinking and our actions – and we have long known that addressing this must not be just a project, but part of our foundation and an ongoing dialogue.
To this end, we have hired a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant who will work with us on issues of race and equity, addressing potentially oppressive processes, pointing out racial biases and helping us enhance DEI across the agency – from the board of directors to the staff and service level.
Just as much as Black History Month needs to reach beyond its 30-day period, a DEI initiative has to be an ongoing process, rooted in our agency’s foundation, penetrating the basic questions of how we best serve our community and represent the voices of our clients.
It is our intent that our work with Solfire, a local consulting company that has partnered with many of our community’s organizations, will emphasize All Faiths’ leadership role in the social justice and child welfare field as we join the nationwide discussion about how to change a historically white supremacist system in order to build a society based on the inherent equity of all of its members.
The pandemic has highlighted the already existing issues of poverty and lack of resources for families who are our neighbors. Often, these families, those who struggle with living life on the edge, are the ones that seek trauma services, rely on food support, lack access to health care – and, because of social inequities, are people of color. We regularly find that the caretakers in these families have jobs, and often multiple jobs, that barely allow them to scrape by.
It is our vision to have a society that’s free of child abuse and neglect – and as such, we must do everything to change the underlying issues reflected in the horrific statistics that we have become all too used to: New Mexico is first in the nation in child maltreatment, child hunger and next to last in economic well-being. It would be simplistic to think that these data reflect one-dimensional issues that are easily altered – otherwise, we would have done so already. Instead, a multi-pronged approach will be needed and addressing racial inequities must be at the center.
At All Faiths Children’s Advocacy Center we’re excited to adopt this lens and challenge ourselves to do better for all involved — board, staff and especially the children and families in our programs.
I hope you will follow us on our path through the periodic updates we’ll publish – and by adding your voice to this important initiative.