My career at the Family League started as the Disproportionate Minority Contact coordinator, whose main goal was to reduce the racial and ethnic disparities of youth involved with the juvenile justice system. As my portfolio has grown to include education and social justice initiatives I have learned many valuable lessons regarding the importance of system integration, not only for the purposes of better quality care, but as an intricate part of system reform. Through this experience, I know that I will forever bring the lens of racial equity where ever I go.
In times of economic struggle there is an opportunity for improved coordination of child serving agencies to work smarter and reach further. I am troubled by reduced budgets and yet optimistic in the spirit of cross system collaboration and partnership, with the possibilities of better service, quality care, and improved outcomes for youth and families. I do believe we can do more, with less, but only if we strategically align our efforts while raising the level of accountability for ourselves and with each other.
The integration of services to improve quality of life needs to be accomplished with the simultaneous intention to reduce and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities. Creating great programs and services for young people to thrive does not automatically create equal access to those opportunities. Having the road map of successful benchmarks will not alone narrow the achievement gap, ensure quality education, reduce system penetration, or reduce the disproportionate rates of infant mortality among youth of color in Baltimore City and nationwide. Without intention, we will never achieve our desired outcomes.
So what can we do?
- Use data to understand the issue and how system decisions impact racial disparities.
- Develop partnerships to explore solutions and implement reform policies and practices.
- Understand the capacity to match the needs of youth with community resources.
- Develop the political will to address the problem.
- Be INTENTIONAL in your effort to achieve racial equity.
Reducing racial disparities of youth of color is a problem that CAN be solved!