Children’s Institute’s Office of Equity Builds on Movement for Racial Justice
In June 2020, Children’s Institute launched its Office of Equity (OOE) to ensure the organization’s mission-driven work serving families in Los Angeles is delivered with an unwavering commitment to anti-racism and social justice. Equity is one of CII’s four core values and the newly formed OOE will support the entire agency by providing planning, ongoing training and accountability.
Amina Jones Fields, Vice President of Research, Evaluation and Reporting, oversees OOE and reports directly to CII’s President & CEO Martine Singer on these matters. Fields was selected in early 2020 to lead CII’s initiatives around Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). As national unrest and protests grew in May and June in response to the murder of George Floyd, Singer requested a more urgent response and the OOE was created to elevate the scope and impact of this work.
The children and family members served through CII’s programs have experienced intergenerational poverty and trauma, perpetuated by long-standing racist systems and policies. To successfully support the needs of marginalized children and families, OOE will facilitate training for staff to confront their own experiences with racism, and will identify racial biases that have persisted in systems that provide care to communities of color.
Fields said OOE will work on parallel tracks to support both individual learning and development around equity and organizationally to establish an EDI culture. OOE will involve administrative and program staff at all levels to capture different perspectives and shape CII’s work.
“Systemic racism and inequity are the root of the health, safety and economic challenges that impact the families we serve at CII,” Fields said. “To achieve CII’s mission, we must have an organizational focus on equity.”
Singer said OOE will make recommendations directly to the executive leadership team, which ensures this work is a high priority.
“I can’t think of a better time in this country’s history to be launching this initiative,” Singer said. “Amina’s vision and the team she is pulling together will be transformative for our organization.”
Joining Fields to lead OOE is Simona Brown, Human Resources Manager, Terry Kim, Director of Government Relations & Advocacy, and Dr. Jacqueline Atkins, Vice President of Strengthening Families. Fields said that when OOE was announced internally, more than two dozen staff members reached out to get involved.
Brown will ensure CII’s talent strategy, which includes hiring and staff retention, aligns with the overall goals of OOE. In the last couple of weeks, OOE brought in renowned diversity trainer Tiana Sanchez to facilitate multiple small group sessions on race and equity. OOE is launching an anti-racism resource portal for staff education and will have more interactive events throughout the fall and winter.
“I want people to know that for us to achieve the goals of this initiative, this work needs to be owned by everybody,” Brown said. “It’s everybody’s job and everybody’s responsibility.”
For Kim, who came to CII with a passion to engage in racial equity through public policy and government advocacy, OOE is about linking individual staff and program goals with overall agency goals on equity and justice.
“Systemic change cannot happen without confronting structural racism and historical inequities that the families served by CII experience every day,” Kim said. “As an organization we have to centralize racial equity and justice in all that we do.
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