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September 2021Vol. 22, No. 8Equity Is a Right

Written by Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg

Last month, I sent a letter to child welfare leaders reaffirming our focus on equity. In the letter, I reiterated the definition of the term "equity" as it is written in the President's Executive Order 13985 on "Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government." The term equity is defined, in pertinent part, as "the consistent and systematic fair, just and impartial treatment of all individuals..." Equity is such a broad term, and there are so many ways and opportunities to achieve it, yet, as a nation, we have failed to achieve equity for the children and families we serve. My letter was an invitation to the nation to join me in leading the difficult work of advancing equity. 

I could take this moment to quote the statistics on the disparate outcomes for our Black and Brown, our LGBTQIA+ and two-spirited, and our differently abled children and families-and even our rural and frontier families-but I won't. Let it suffice to say that for them, equity is illusory. In child welfare, we are closely familiar with intergenerational inequity and the generations of families for whom equity is all but an American dream. My ancestors dreamed, too. Among many dreams, they dreamed of freedom, they dreamed of the right to vote, and they dreamed about equitable schooling. The federal government, in concert with the United States Supreme Court, had the power to create space for change and to make the way for their dreams to be realized. Even with that revolutionary change, my ancestors are still dreaming. 

I believe we can make it better for the generations to come. At the federal level, we are scrutinizing our current policies, we're having tough conversations, and we're identifying polices that exacerbate inequity and we are prioritizing them for change. We are conducting equity impact statements and asking ourselves, "Are we administering our programs equitably? Are we serving the families that need it most? Are we removing the obstacles to access? What more do we need to do?"

The transformational change that I envision will take time. And some of it will take even longer. In the same way that we watched the nation transform with human rights-voting rights, women's rights, and marriage equality-we have to expect that achieving equity for those who dream of it-and deserve it-is possible. But it is only possible if those of us who have the power to make the changes wield that power and make the changes. It means having the faith that with courage and persistence we will see breakthroughs even in the situations that seem insurmountable. I'm referring to those longstanding pits of inequity that we have been unable to dismantle. 

Equity is a right. Our children and families have the right to be made whole. As June Jordan wrote in her Poem for South African Women, "We are the ones we have been waiting for." The time to stop dreaming is now! Let's do the work with courage and persistence so that every child and family has the right to be equal and whole. #EquityInAction.