Wednesday evening, January 25, 2012, the Carver Museum hosted a Conversation on Race at a program they do on a regular basis called The Cultural Lounge. About 40-50 people sat in a circle in the Theater. The circle always seems to fertilize more of an open dialogue. The George Washington Carver Museum is dedicated to the collection, preservation, research and exhibition of African-American historical and cultural material, as well as hosting events such as The Cultural Lounge.. This aim of this conversation was to go deeper in a conversation about race using a a ‘town hall’ model. This blogger certainly felt more of an openness to talk about race.
The gathering was an open forum to share stories, participate in discussion, and to speak with one another about the disproportionalitynd disparities between Anglos and Person-of-Color groups, especially as those disparities and didisproportionality affect children, parents and caregivers within the Child Protective Services in the state of Texas reality they affect us all even if we’re unaware of the issues.
The discussion focused on students of color being referred into the Juvenile Justice System due to disciplinary infractions; not at risk, but at potential students of color who have a greater chance of going into adult incarceration, or dropping out of school (approximately fifty percent of children of color drop out of school and don’t graduate with a high school diploma). The trainers emphasized that many systemic factors are at work in the lives of youth of color such as economic factors, access to medical and social service providers, poverty, housing, single parent issues, and issues such as some adolescents being tried in adult courts, and after release attempting to gain the basics with a felony conviction, etc.
Joyce James—Associate Deputy Executive Commissioner, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Center for Elimination of Disproportionality was one of the co-facilitators, and the other co-facilitator was Joanne Pierce—Health Disparities Director, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities.
They emphasized that any kind of program to eliminate disparities needs to be based upon the latest data of disproportionalitity and disparities. It also needs to be system-driven and serving disadvantaged youth with effective, evidence-based programming;with a cadre of collaborations and alliances between stake holders, government entities, and community members can make the biggest impact to correcting the problems we know do exist in the community.. Finally, racial awareness needs to be at the center of any program or training, in order to deal with unequal services and resources received by person-of-color groups, and that show up in the research data—this means continually focusing on undoing racism in a community-wide and systemic manner.
Participants were given a report compiled by The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services entitled Disproportionality in Child Protective Services: The Preliminary Results of Statewide Reform Efforts in Texas, March 2010; log on to: (http://www.dfps.state.us/Child_Protection/Disproportionality/default.asp) to access the report. To contact the Center or to view the website for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities, log on to http://www.dfps.state.tx.us.
The report states both healthy and unhealthy consequences and examples for Anglos and Persons of color, and the writer can only mention a few here. Since this Reform has started there has been an “increased the proportion of African American and Hispanic staff relative to Anglo staff within the workforce…[CPS] implemented a full range of practices (mine—to work with an engage youth and families involved in the CPS program,…Implemented kinship caregiver program…Developed partnerships with community organizations to address disproportionality in several Texas cities”…disproportionality in the Texas Child Welfare has been reduced” (p. 5).
Pages 25-26 cite a blend of healthy and unhealthy outcomes for children of color: “Overall, findings indicate that some progress has been made in reducing the disproportionate rates of African American and Hispanic children exiting substitute care …African American and Hispanic children are still more likely to remain in substitute care than Anglo children…Hispanic children are more likely to exit to reunification and less likely to exit to a kinship placement. The overall data show that African American children are more likely to exit to kinship placements and less likely to reunity.”
Finally, the report includes (in this writer’s mind) one of the most salient learnings from this report: “Findings indicate that when other factors are taken into account, the decision to place children in substitute care is predicted by the following: race, risk of future maltreatment (which is lower for African Americans), poverty, the perception of lower interpersonal skills on the part of caseworkers, and having fewer African American families on one’s caseload.”(p.6)
This last statement shows the influence of various systems in the community. For children of color all of these negative voices from the systems around them usually get internalized; this is called Internalized Racism or Internalized Oppression. Youth of color may have heard these messages repetitively, and as most of us know, if you hear a lie over and over again from someone who is telling you it’s true, eventually we may believe the lie. This then leads to an even lower sense of self. Basically, Internalized Oppression is a form of self-hate and self-faultfinding, because folks have been told so many times that they’re “less than” they believe and it shades the way they view their own racial identity.
The last statement refers to caseworkers’ perceptions of children of color. How do they view children of color as compared to Anglos, for example? The work of the Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities is very important for those of us who work in education, human services, healthcare systems, Forensic systems such as the CJS and other organizations in the social services sphere. In the context of a diverse, multicultural community we need to make sure our Cultural Competency Skills are sharpened and current.
If community members, parents, human services professionals, and youth have ways of building their skills, we will observe less community-wide conflict, and have the tools of prevention to increase living and working together so that we may find we have many more resources for community wellness to increase.
Contact Information: Phone—512-424-6509
Toll Free: 877-316-2822
© Christopher Bear-Beam January 27 2012