Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis Position Statement and Action Plan to Address Racial Inequities

Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis (CASGSL) is appalled and deeply alarmed by the tragic and senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and by the countless losses of other Black, Indigenous and People of Color whose names we remember.  We are moved and aggrieved by the realization that there are so many others whose names we never knew.  Every day we more fully recognize our responsibility to identify, understand and stand against the systemic racism that erodes opportunities, jeopardizes our children’s futures and impedes the change required to provide equitable, just, and dignified lives for every member of our community.  As providers and educators of trauma-informed care, we witness the profound impacts of structural and institutional racism as well as historical trauma on the safety, health and well-being of the children, adolescents, and families we serve every day.  We are your neighbors and citizens of the Greater St. Louis community and stand ready to lend our collective voice toward the process of change.

As leaders in the child welfare field and as a Child Advocacy Center, we view ourselves as having a responsibility to our clients to play a critical role in working toward equity as well as reducing disparities and the effects of implicit bias, prejudice, discrimination, and oppression within the systems in which we work.   We also recognize that in this moment, it is not enough to merely acknowledge these issues.  We must also acknowledge the people in our community who have been fighting for change for decades and act to help them effect their desired changes and move toward solutions.  CASGSL is deeply committed to intensifying our own self-reflection and acknowledges that our commitment to growth needs to be lifelong.  With this understanding, we aim to formulate steps and strategies that will promote meaningful, actionable change across the multiple stakeholders we impact.  To that end, CASGSL commits to these initial action steps:

CASGSL staff and faculty

  • Create time, space, and place for our staff to come together to reflect more deeply on these important issues, have these potentially uncomfortable, but needed, conversations and when necessary, hold each other accountable.
  • Initiate a CASGSL taskforce on inclusivity, diversity, equity, and cultural appreciation to gather information, synthesize data and make recommendations to CASGSL leadership.
  • Continue to educate ourselves by participating in trainings offered by the University’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as well as other opportunities for new and/or deeper learning
  • Expand our trauma informed assessment procedures to be more inclusive and incorporate experiences related to racial inequities, police interactions, and discrimination due to race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other aspects of one’s identity.
  • Broaden and deepen our discussions of cultural considerations and the impact of systems’ interactions on families during our forensic interview peer review and clinical treatment team meetings.
  • Encourage and support staff in contributing to legislative and other forms of advocacy for social justice reform through policy work, information sharing and testimony.
  • Broaden efforts to recruit, retain and promote staff members of color.
  • Modify our on-boarding and training procedures for new employees and students to include readings and discussion on issues of equity and diversity.

Clients and families we serve

  • Solicit feedback from our clients to help us learn what they need during these moments of national discord and develop programming that gives clients opportunities to express themselves, imagine their vision of their future and prioritize the changes they wish to make.
  • Continue to provide high quality trauma informed services aimed at helping clients develop skills to understand and make meaning of their experiences, and advocate for themselves and others, especially in circumstances when social injustice
  • Create safe spaces that encourage our clients to use their voices, particularly when they may be reluctant to do so because the larger community may label them and their voices as loud, angry, aggressive and unacceptable.
  • Support our caregivers in their efforts to identify and explore their own experiences related to interactions with people of diverse communities, racism, white privilege, racial inequities, historical trauma, and oppression.
  • Assist our caregivers in developing an understanding of how their personal identities and experiences related to social justice influence how they parent and support their children.
  • Support our caregivers in advocating for their children when social justice violations and/or racial inequities arise and help them find opportunities to promote change within the systems within which their families are involved.
  • Provide reliable and compelling advocacy for our clients in those circumstances when caregivers are unable to do so.

Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) students

  • Recruit and mentor students of color and support their transition into the workforce.
  • Recruit faculty of color by leveraging available University resources when CAST program expansion allows.
  • Guide CAST students to reflect on their own implicit biases and how they will impact their professional work.
  • Embed information and exercises across the CAST curriculum that teach students to think critically about the impact of historical trauma, racial inequities, discrimination, oppression, and implicit bias on the families they will ultimately serve.
  • Develop internship opportunities that strengthen CAST students’ skills in working with diverse populations.
  • Create opportunities for CAST students to learn advocacy skills that will empower them to effectively bring about needed change within the systems where they will work.

Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) and Community

  • Reach out to our multidisciplinary partners to solicit how CASGSL can support them and meet their needs during this pivotal moment.
  • Invite MDT members to more thoroughly identify, discuss and consider cultural and equity considerations before, during and after the forensic interview component of the investigation process.
  • Continue to support and commit resources to innovative MDT efforts such as our partnership with St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the Cops and Clinicians program.
  • Ensure that the services, trainings, courses, and research efforts CASGSL offers are infused with awareness of and strategies for addressing systemic racism.
  • Build capacity within our communities to train and support facilitators to implement interventions aimed at addressing issues related to social injustices and promoting positive social change at individual and communal levels (e.g., Resiliency and Coping Intervention)
  • Gather and distribute resources, such as those in the list below, as they become available to us.

As CASGSL works to implement these action items, and formulate additional ones, we invite you to share your lived experiences and concerns with us to help shape our plans and the next steps that will drive action and change.  Knowing that we are stronger together, we stand with you and hope that the community will stand with us as we engage in this work and endeavor to fulfill our mission of transforming lives.

 


Resources

  • Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice – Marianne Celano and Marietta Collins (Ages 4-8)
  • You Matter – Christian Robinson (Ages 4-8)
  • All Because You Matter – Tami Charles (Ages 4-8)
  • Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness – Anastasia Higginbotham (Ages 8-12)
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You – Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi (Teen)
  • White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo (Adult)
  • How to be an Anti-Racist – Ibram X. Kendi (Adult)