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Latest News: Executive Director Messages

There Can Be No Children's Justice Without Racial Justice

Tuesday, June 30, 2020  
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We will all remember the spring of 2020.  It came in like a lion and just kept roaring -- keeping us isolated, hypervigilant, and facing many unanswerable questions.  Every time it felt like the news couldn’t get any worse, it did.  100,000 deaths and counting.  Children and families experiencing extended separation.  Youth aging out of care with no money for food or rent.  And, as the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic were reshaping our world, our country was rocked again, this time by the all-too-familiar videos and reports of Black people murdered by police and self-styled civilian enforcers.   America “opened up” to justifiable outrage, pain, and protest for the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor and more.   


I sit here and write this as a white woman with white sons, privileged beyond what we could ever fully understand.  We do not live in fear.  When I took my boys to the hospital for bruises, stitches, and other hallmarks of childhood injuries, I had no concerns I would be questioned or suspected of physical abuse.  And when my boys, now 17, go for a run or walk down the street, they have no concern they will be stopped, much less harmed or killed, by the police or anyone else.  As a white family striving daily to practice anti-racism, we have to regularly remind ourselves of our privilege and the structural inequities and systemic racism which created it.  But this knowledge is not enough; daily practice is necessary to cede power.  


Last month, our team at NACC completed race equity training with the Race Matters Institute, a program of JustPartners, Inc.  The training came about in the context of implementing NACC’s new strategic plan, which seeks to position NACC for deeper program impact and organizational growth.  We saw that if we do not grapple with racial equity, diversity, and inclusion as an organization, NACC will not achieve its core mission.  Thanks to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, our staff participated in a timely and powerful series of educational sessions and activities to help us bring a race equity lens to our programmatic work and leadership roles.  This summer, our Board of Directors will also participate in this training.  But understanding these tools is not enough; active, ongoing implementation is required to change our practices and programs to advance racial equity, diversity, and belonging at NACC.


Racial bias and institutionalized racism are woven into the fabric of the child welfare system and its history.  Scholars remind us foster care began as a white-only institution and became more punitive when Black children and families entered the system, when the government started spending more money on adoption and out-of-home care than in-home services and family supports.   Have no doubt, this shameful legacy continues today. 


Racial disproportionality for Black children in the child welfare system exists at every decision point in the process due to a legacy of individual, institutional, and systemic racism.  Black youth are overrepresented in foster care at a rate twice their representation in the U.S. population. Black families and communities are more likely to be surveilled and Black youth are more likely to be removed from their families, placed in congregate care, and charged with crimes.  Due to the arrests of Black youth in foster care, the child welfare system has been identified as a significant source of racial disparities in the juvenile justice system


NACC policy calls for the elimination of racial disparities and disproportionality in our child welfare, juvenile justice, and other child-serving systems.  Child welfare practitioners must understand the role that race has played and continues to play in policies that separate and incarcerate families and which criminalize the adolescence of Black youth. Change begins at the individual level, addressing implicit bias in our practice through candid reflections on how our perspectives and advocacy are shaped by our own privileges and biases.  This work continues at the systemic level, where a structural analysis is necessary to understand how racial inequities are produced and addressed. 


NACC does not have all the answers, but we are committed to applying a racial equity impact analysis to our work moving forward.  This begins by continuing to train and educate ourselves, updating our communications and hiring practices to reach and support diverse audiences, including a wider range of perspectives in planning and decision-making, and incorporating racial equity in the training and services we provide members, such as upcoming webinars.  


We hope you will join us in this journey because there can be no children’s justice without racial justice.  Black Lives Matter.


We are NACC.  Together we are Promoting Excellence, Building Community, Advancing Justice.



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