When I stepped into my role as the new Executive Director of Children’s Alliance, I was humbled to succeed Paola Maranan, a dear friend who I’ve long admired as a champion for racial equity. I was equally excited to join an organization with a well-deserved reputation for advancing anti-racism.
During the hiring process, one interviewer asked me to share my thoughts on “anti-Blackness.” The audacity to include that question in an interview process, and to expect that a future leader would have a thoughtful and considered answer, convinced me that this was the right place to be.
In the months since that interview, I have logged hundreds of Zoom meeting hours listening to our staff, board, partners, and members. Below are some core truths that I have learned:
You are eager for Children’s Alliance to harness this moment and turn it into a movement. For many of us, this moment feels unprecedented, but we must remember that real progress emerges from both strategic fights for systemic policy change rooted in racial justice and tactical responses to catalytic moments like the present one. For years, Children’s Alliance has had that dexterity, resulting in significant wins for children in our state.
We have also earned a solid reputation as a leader in policy advocacy that is rooted in racial equity. Our work has served as model for others who are writing policies, running organizations, and building movements that seek to undo the damage caused by institutional racism.
Because we are on this journey as well, we dedicate substantial time to improving our ability to lead for racial equity. The palpable energy and widespread demand for racial justice, sparked by events this summer, gives us hope that more advocates across the state are ready to speak up for racially just policies for kids. With your help, we will compel all of our lawmakers to create lasting change for future generations.
You want us to grow our community of advocates across the state, and expand into policy areas beyond early learning, health, and revenue. The pandemic has pushed all of us to quickly adapt to a world of virtual gatherings. We now have the impetus and opportunity to broaden our outreach across the state by bringing advocates together online. We know that our impact in Olympia will be much stronger with a broad base of support that includes geographic, racial, and ethnic diversity.
With your support, we hope to deepen our relationships with current members and enlist new ones to be part of our child advocacy community. Additionally, we have heard from many of you that Children’s Alliance’s equity-centered, nonpartisan advocacy is needed on multiple issues that affect children’s well-being. Over time, we hope to expand our policy priorities and advocate for a more robust legislative agenda that responds to the needs of children from the moment they are born until they launch into adulthood. Your continued engagement will be crucial in opening doors to new partnerships and building this capacity for the future.
You understand that advocacy with and not for communities makes our movement stronger. That fact that Children’s Alliance advocates with community, and not for community, is a concept that I did not fully appreciate until I joined Children’s Alliance and discovered that it is woven into our DNA.
This organizational mantra recognizes the value and power of community, and that those who are most directly impacted by disparities in opportunities are the ones who will be most effective in leading, shaping, and advocating for policy solutions.
We are grateful for our network of member advocates who work alongside us and hold us accountable for keeping racial equity at the forefront of our work. We pledge to continue listening to and learning from you, and we invite you to grow your power with us.
As we look to the 2021 legislative session, we know that there are daunting challenges ahead, but Children’s Alliance is an organization that was made for this moment. For years, our 9,000+ members have pushed for policies that advance racial equity for kids. With more and more people waking up to the realization that the path forward must include the dismantling of racism in the systems that serve our children, we are poised to grow our membership and channel that hunger for change into a better future for our children.
If you missed our recent series of online community conversations, where we talk about the challenges children and families are facing during this global pandemic, please check them out in the links below. We also hope you’ll act, today. The opportunities that are open at this unique moment of history will not last forever, and we must act decisively and in unison to make sure that our elected officials know what our priorities are. Please sign up here to get advocacy opportunities in your inbox, or to update your contact information, and be ready to respond to our calls for action.
For our children,
Dr. Stephan Blanford
Listen to the recording of the conversation between Dr. Stephan Blanford and Paola Maranan (September 30, 2020)
Watch the recording of the conversation between Dr. Stephan Blanford and Amy Liu of Microsoft Philanthropies (October 13, 2020)
Watch the recording of the conversation between Dr. Stephan Blanford and Secretary Ross Hunter of the Department of Children Youth and Families(October 28, 2020)