June 19, 2022, marks our second year celebrating Juneteenth as an agency and its recognition as a federal holiday. Observing Juneteenth is bittersweet—both a celebration of the end of slavery in America, but also a reflection on the work yet to be done to achieve racial equity. Juneteenth also reminds us why equity, the final value in our agency’s SCOPE (Strong Families, Community; Opportunity; Partnership and Equity) is foundational to what we do at Children’s Home & Aid.
Let’s be clear: freedom and equity still mean different things in this country. This week, Attorney General Merrick Garland filed federal hate crime charges in the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York and joined families in mourning the loss of 10 lives from Buffalo’s African-American community. This act stands as a horrifying reminder of how racism in our country can literally destroy the lives of innocent Americans.
In nearly every aspect of life—from healthcare to education—families in Black and Brown communities navigate systems riddled with systemic barriers. Our staff see this firsthand everywhere they work. Families at our Mitzi Freidheim Child & Family Center continue to struggle with baby formula shortages in a community already bereft of healthy foods and staple household items. And this isn’t the only community where families are hurting. Add the pressures of rising inflation and soaring gas prices, and the threat to family vitality is even starker.
Every day, we see how racism, social inequality, and disinvestment ravage communities and fracture families. We see how child maltreatment is too often a symptom of our failure to treat the real threat our families face: poverty.
On Tuesday at our annual Breaking Barriers event, Intact Family Services Supervisor Taiesha Stroud, captured our challenge perfectly—responding to racial and social inequality means ensuring families and communities are “thriving, not surviving.”
Advancing racial and social equity also means acknowledging and learning from past mistakes. By acknowledging our mistakes, we do more than build a sense of shared history, we also build what author Alex Kotlowitz—speaking at Breaking Barriers—described as “a shared humanity.”
By listening to the lessons of the past and present, and advocating for policies that promote equity, we can prevent parents and caregivers from experiencing the trauma of facing unfathomable choices no one should have to make. When systems are equitable and families have what they need, they discover their strengths, amplify their voices, and inspire change.
But there is real work to do.
Another speaker from Breaking Barriers reminded us as much. Michael Tubbs, the former Mayor of Stockton, California and subject of the HBO documentary Stockton on My Mind put it this way: “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the need for a revolution of values. We went through a pandemic which showed us how poverty makes us all sicker. Poverty is what is going to make us stuck.”
Juneteenth challenges us to be more intentional about how we live in the present even as we acknowledge and remember the pains of our past. It’s also an opportunity to learn. Feel free to check out some of the readings, videos, and other resources we’ve made available on this page.
Together, we’re advancing one step at a time toward our vision of an equitable world where all children and families thrive in strong communities. This is how we disrupt the systemic and multi-generational cycle of racial, social, and economic inequality. This is how we launch a revolution of values.