This week, our staff asked, “The Coalition turned on a dime for COVID-19, why haven’t we done the same for racism?”
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery were murdered, and yet the Coalition was silent on the many ways systemic racism manifests in the lives of our staff and families. We did the same during Ferguson. We did the same after the Stockley verdict.
Difficult internal conversations this past week revealed to us that, by remaining silent, we made a mistake. We not only failed our African American staff, but our kids and families.
Many of the families we serve live in or near Ferguson. They know racism firsthand. Despite an African American population of only 30%, more than 70% of children in St. Louis foster care are black. While we live that disparity, we have never been explicit in our condemnation of its cause: systemic racism.
That changes today. We promise that change because it is what our kids, families, and staff deserve. It is what our community deserves. It is what our donors and volunteers deserve.
So let us be clear: Black Lives Matter. As we begin to truly live that statement, we will be guided by our following core values:
We celebrate differences and harness the power that diversity brings. Every viewpoint is heard and honored. We are stronger because of our differences.
We insist on fairness and respect. We are deliberate in ensuring everyone has safety, opportunity, access, and support to be heard.
We respect, leverage, and engage everyone’s unique strengths and talents so each individual can contribute to their full potential.
We are family. We are connected and support one another in meeting the needs of our own families and the families we serve. We assume the best and are committed to each other.
But acknowledgement is only the first step. After that comes action. This Friday, our staff will take time to actively steward diversity and inclusion. What does that mean? For some staff, it will mean joining the protests. For others, it will mean educating themselves or their family and friends about the very real race issues our country and community face and have been silent about too long. Other staff will start difficult but necessary conversations with their children about racism. Others who have been unjustly and racially targeted may just take time to rest.
With our eyes now fully open, we pledge to you that this work will be ongoing. In the coming weeks, we will create a long-term plan outlining our goals toward fighting the historical, structural racism that is at the very heart of the foster care and adoption system. Because transparency is also a core value, we will share with you that plan.
We invite you to take this journey with us. The Coalition is a movement of diverse individuals united in a shared vision of a home for every child in foster care. That diversity is our greatest strength, and we will lean on this strength as we build a better version of ourselves.