Have a Heart for Kids Day rally, 2015

How to change state services so we let kids thrive

Adam 02/14/17
kids on the path

The creation of a Department for Children, Youth and Families is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to structure government for positive outcomes for children. Here are excerpts from remarks by Children’s Alliance executive director Paola Maranan as she reflected on the importance of this opportunity at a special convening of service providers and advocates in December 2016. Click here to stay up-to-date on the proposed Department of Children, Youth and Families. Take action in support of the department today.

More than 30 years ago, Children’s Alliance was founded to fight for kids. We were created with the goal of bringing a host of different organizations and children’s interests together to advocate for the whole child: a goal we all share and one that is so relevant to today’s discussion. That work continues today as we explore an historic opportunity for Washington’s kids.

The proposal before the legislature to create a state Department of Children, Youth and Families is designed to make our kids a higher priority to our leaders and to restructure the way in which services are delivered to them in order to achieve better results.

Importantly, along with this re-construction, we have the opportunity to do the needed work of de-construction: the deconstruction of systems and policies that perpetuate inequity.

Across the board, data demonstrates that there are racial disparities and inequities throughout our public institutions, especially those serving children and families. From the higher percentage of children of color who have not had the opportunities needed to be ready for kindergarten, to the higher proportion of families of color referred to Child Protective Services, this pervasive inequity is present and undeniable.

Child welfare and juvenile justice systems were built, in part, to police people of color and poor folks, and for generations these systems have inflicted deep, lasting wounds to families and communities. We recognize and acknowledge the role these systems have played in creating and perpetuating inequity.

At the same time, our child-serving systems are filled with people who wish to do right by all kids. But their work is built on foundations and within policy and practice frameworks that reflect embedded racist and classist assumptions about who is whole and who is broken—who must be saved from themselves, their families, and their own communities.

Together, we must give our all to identifying and dismantling biased systems, institutions, and policies.

To build the system and supports that kids need, we have to seize every opportunity to fix the foundation upon which those systems are built, including the opportunity we gather to discuss today. We can re-build, re-structure, and re-found this department with a focus on achieving racial equity and eliminating the racial disparities in the services and outcomes that compromise our children, youth, and families and our shared futures.

Today is an important next step in that work. It is work that we must do together, building on what we know, and working together to discover the new approaches kids need. Children’s Alliance is committed to policy advocacy that is equity-focused and community-informed. So we join with you today to share what we know and what matters to us and, more importantly, to learn what matters to you.

If you would like to learn more about our work on the proposed Department of Children, Youth and Families, please contact us or sign up for our weekly email updates and invitations to weekly community teleconference calls.