A Reimagined Vision for Black Child and Family Well-being From National and Local Leaders

By Mavis Sanders, Child Trends

Despite significant gains toward achieving the full rights and protections of citizenship, Black people in the United States face significant challenges to their well-being that stem from centuries of racial discrimination, violence, and exclusion. Statistics recounting these challenges, while necessary to understand and address the pervasive impact of systemic racism on Black children and families, can often feel overwhelming and disheartening. For those whose experiences are reflected in these statistics—and for those committed to advancing the well-being of Black children and families so that they, and the nation, can thrive—it is important to engage in opportunities to refuel and recommit to the hard work of systems change. I was fortunate to moderate such an occasion on June 15th.

To commemorate the Juneteenth holiday and discuss insights from a recent brief that highlights the voices of advocacy and service leaders at organizations that promote racial and social justice, Child Trends hosted a webinar: Reimagining Black Family and Child Well-Being in Research, Programming, and Public Policy. Four leaders—Dr. Leah Austin at the National Black Child Development Institute, Siobhan Davenport at Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, Terrance Moore at the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, and Synethia White at Cities United—gathered to discuss new visions and pathways for Black child and family well-being. I left the webinar inspired and continue to reflect on the ideas that we discussed, especially the following three points.

The well-being of Black children and families requires a “complete” narrative, meaning one that reflects the diversity of their backgrounds, experiences, assets, and needs. Panelists discussed the deficit framing around Black families that has been prevalent in media coverage, research, and policy to date, and the ways in which this framing has limited our understanding of Black children and families and of possibilities to effect meaningful change. Correcting this narrative requires redirecting our research focus toward the policies, institutions, and practices that limit collective Black progress.

Black child and family well-being requires the efforts of individuals and organizations that have the love and courage to make “good trouble.” Trouble is disruptive and is often viewed as something to be avoided. However, panelists described “good trouble”[1] as being disruptive in a way that results in positive change. A commitment to making good trouble is essential for disrupting the status quo and achieving the excellent quality of life to which Black children and families have a right.

Black child and family well-being requires collaborative action among individuals and organizations committed to changing the institutions, policies, and practices that constrain equity and justice. Panelists underscored the importance of such collaboration to achieve the “major league” work of systemic and cultural change required for Black child and family well-being.

Webinar participants offered these and additional insights during the rich discussion that provided food for the mind and the spirit. I invite you to view the webinar to learn more and to reimagine a nation in which all children and families can access the resources they need to flourish. You will not be disappointed.

Footnote

[1] This phrase was popularized by—and is often associated with—the civil rights leader and late U.S. representative, John Lewis

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