It is no small task to reflect on the impact history has on the how and why of our work. Foundationally, we have to recognize how structural racism and bias can make the experience of raising a family in Oregon different for families of color and white families.
For example, when we think about who has access to high quality child care, we have to take into account where child care is currently available and where it isn’t; how communities were or were not welcome into different neighborhoods; who was able to get a home loan to buy a house in “desirable” neighborhoods; and who, partially as a result of home ownership, was able to accrue wealth and pass it down to their children, etc. These are not theoretical wonderings, there is real and specific history of how Black Oregonians, and other communities of color, were and were not given access to opportunities. All of this impacts child care accessibility.
As we work now to provide equity and opportunity for every child in Multnomah County we have to address how this history shows up in the present. Part of how ELM addresses this history is by prioritizing communities of color in our work. You’ll see us make clear statements about why and how we do our work, including:
“We disrupt the structural barriers families of color face when their young children are growing and learning. We build partnerships, set family-driven priorities, spark shifts in thinking, and support our partners to more effectively serve children and families of color in Multnomah County.”
Additionally, as one of 16 early learning hubs across the state we are tasked with coordinating a vision for early learning in our region. You may have seen that the state recently launched a comprehensive, cross-sector plan for early learning. “Raise up Oregon: A Statewide Early Learning System Plan” is intended to provide a road map for the next five years of work.
The plan builds upon the Early Learning Council’s three goals (Children Arrive Ready for Kindergarten; Children are raised in Healthy, Stable and Attached Families; The Early Learning System is Aligned, Coordinated, and Family Centered) with objectives and strategies across early care and education, health, housing and community development, human services, and K-12 education. Throughout the plan the importance of coordination and collaboration is clear.
Much of the plan aligns to the work we’ve been doing for years and this level of statewide recognition and support from the Governor and agency leaders is important and gives us even more hope for the future of the work.
At the same time, we think it’s essential that we do not lose sight of the past. Well-meaning plans to support families in 2019 are at a much greater risk of not working if we don’t understand the root causes of unequal opportunities.
And this is where we need your help. In everything we do you should see our attention on the strengths, needs, and experiences of communities of color. Our work should feel like authentic partnership, family-driven priorities, shifted thinking, and support for community partners.
That’s why in addition to, and in service of, the state-level priorities we’ll continue to prioritize our efforts to elevate parent leadership, build local partnerships that center the experiences of families, and reimagine what it means to serve families. We know success is not just about the programs and resources available, but also about who is at the table in their development.
So let us know when we get it right and when we fall short. Let us know how your own reflections on history are impacting your early learning work. We want to hear it.
Reach out to ELM directors Frances Sallah or Molly Day or join us at an Early Learning Community Meeting.