Author | Stephanie Lafleur
The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the fact that Black Americans have been dying at about 2.4 times the rate of white Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic are direct results of more than 500 years of racism which has created systemic racism. As humans, we must see the humanity in others. We must condemn and dismantle all racist systems. As a white-led organization, we have a lot of work ahead to transform into a more anti-racist organization. We are taking the lead from those who have been on the front lines and from Black leaders, providers, and center owners who live with racial oppression every day and serve the children most impacted by racial disparities in early childhood education.
The vision of United 4 Children is that every child – regardless of race, zipcode or ability – has the foundation to thrive. Data confirms that equal access to quality ECE lays the foundation for their future: The very form and function of a child’s brain is dependent upon healthy experiences at a young age.
ECE impacts academic achievement, career readiness and attainment, social relationships, and incarceration rates, and children who are unable to access healthy ECE, or worse, who time and again survive the trauma of racism, are more likely to experience developmental delays, negative social interactions, excess conflict, lack of self-regulation, and struggle more with kindergarten-readiness.
And yet, childcare programs are underfunded. Programs are too expensive for families. Quality is difficult to measure.
The equity gap in terms of high-quality care and education creates opportunity barriers for children that disproportionately affects Black children.
Furthermore, systemic racism places an undue burden on Black-owned childcare centers and Black providers. The global pandemic highlighted the systemic challenges and financial risks for these business owners. As Gary Coleman and Atia Thurman pointed out “Black-owned child care centers and providers in black or low-income communities are at greater risk of closing permanently than white-owned centers and providers in white or high-income communities.”
In launching our community-led strategic plan, we identified the need to prioritize the voices of clients and families. It is imperative to use the ideas of the people impacted by our services to lead decision making within the organization. Historically, white-led nonprofits have gone into predominantly Black communities with “good” ideas – ideas steeped in research and/or positive intention. However, these ideas are not responsive to the identified needs and proposed solutions of the community. Often, these ideas do more harm than good. United 4 Children is changing that. Not only was our strategic plan community-led we have created a Client Advisory Board to guide the activities outlined in the plan.
At United 4 Children, we are committed to following the lead of childcare providers – in particular, we will follow the lead of Black women serving children in the communities we work. In our work, we hope to support providers and respond to their calls to action and requests with the resources they have identified as necessary to elevate the quality of ECE. United 4 Children strives to practice radical listening and collaboration as we follow the lead of our partnering childcare providers, working to acknowledge racial disparities and stand alongside our community as we demand that every child, every family, every childcare provider has the opportunity to participate in quality ECE.