Unfortunately, children from ethnic minorities are overrepresented in the child welfare system. CASA has committed to working against the effects of this racial disproportionality and incorporating DEI principles into every layer of our organization. By doing this work internally, we are augmenting our ability to serve the diverse communities that make up Santa Cruz County.
To begin this journey, we hired consultants to help us assess our past and current relationship with DEI principles, giving us the framework, goals, and encouragement needed to move forward. The Board and Staff both started their own DEI committees to examine themselves, identify issues, and develop solutions.
We believe that the equitable sharing of power outside of our organization must first begin within. By creating staff-led committees with decision-making authority and purposefully inviting all staff members into policy and work-culture discussions, staff voices will be heard in the formation of CASA’s future.
Ensuring that those voices reflect the populations we serve, we decided to pay each staff member a livable wage for our county. The ability to work at CASA must not be reserved only for those who have the means and resources to live and work in the county. To further reflect our community, we created a new paid intern position specifically designed for young adults who have lived in the child welfare system. This position will help the intern to grow professionally and will bring a very important voice to the staff at CASA. Moreover, every new hire from the 20-21 fiscal year has been bilingual and our new Outreach Manager, Clarita Cortes, has emphasized appearances on Spanish-language media to better engage with the Hispanic community. Research has shown that a Hispanic or Latino adolescent having a Hispanic or Latino mentor can result in a more positive ethnic identity and improve academic outcomes.
There is still work to be done. To integrate DEI principles into a long-running organization is to swim against a strong current and it will take sustained effort to make progress. Much of this year has been spent setting the stage for that continual work by getting our staff and Board to be more familiar with DEI principles and organized to pursue them. But now, with that foundation, the goal of ending racial disproportionality in the dependency system is easier to imagine. We hope to soon live up to our goal of being led by the people we serve.