A Message From Our Executive Director - May 2021
Sitting with parents in a Zoom meeting recently, we each shared our greatest hopes for children – the blue sky we aspire towards. As we took turns, a shared hope was that every child in our care would have unwavering experiences of full acceptance and love – every place they are. We quickly realized that we shared this same hope for the adults who care for children. Experiencing such acceptance – sensing moments where one’s complete humanity is embraced – transforms futures as we learn then how to catalyze nurturing and growth potentials around us.
This core idea stirred not only our hearts but our minds.
Reflecting on this moment, I recalled a graduate school experience in organizational behavior – an immersion experience in how human systems can create forces that work in favor – and against – diversity. After initial frustration over what initially felt like a socially engineered or “contrived” group process, by the workshop’s end such emoting turned to abashed enlightenment: The learning process perfectly revealed ourselves to ourselves. It showed how our individual and group reactions to the learning exercise (bereft of detailed directions) collectively led us to “fill in the blanks” with our own learned social behaviors that in the end, reduced participation of each other and of the group’s goal achievement. The facilitator summed it up most simply at the wrap-up: Diversity is creating conditions so that every individual can develop to reach their full potential. I will always remember her saying this.
As Children’s Institute embraces the work of supporting children’s success in the 21st Century, we continue to build on our long tradition of ensuring social and emotional aspects of children’s development – by reinforcing its interplay with diversity, inclusion, and equity goals. To achieve our fullest potential – we have to, as the saying goes, keep our eye on all the balls that interact with social and emotional wellbeing – for instance, with children’s learning, social and cultural identity, and health to name a few. In doing so, a focus on complete wellbeing comes into relief as witnessed by our new mission and vision statements described in this issue. We strive toward a vision of having fully supportive communities where every family can raise children who thrive as they live, learn, and play knowing we must attend to context including history and systemic influences – not just in hindsight – but with foresight.
And so, as an organization, we continue to grow our cultural humility learnings and leanings to combat racism and to advance family-centered practices, while grounded in research. We evolve our work to achieve such progress in order to ensure children and adults from all backgrounds have both ongoing opportunities and environments to work towards their own goals and success, to reach their full potential. Schools, health, communities, and organizations like Children’s Institute are answering the call to evaluate where we are currently with social and cultural diversity.
In this past year as every one of us faced so many challenges, our staff kept an eye on where hope is restored for the future by delivering work that matters in these new situations. If conditions do not “return” to the way it was, as you read about our efforts, you’ll see us continuing to develop state-of-the-art services including those in a virtual context. We do so to respond effectively to what partners say they need in the midst of change. And, as there remain many challenges ahead with COVID-19 still prevalent, our focus on assisting schools and other child-serving organizations remains as exposures to the many public health threats and pandemics affect children’s development. While children are not often seen as the face of these pandemics – their future of complete wellbeing has been most greatly affected.
Children’s Institute’s board and staff members have been instrumental to this work in innumerable ways, for instance, to our developing a new strategic framework that includes Children’s Institute’s updated mission, vision, core values, and a three-year strategic direction. Some of our goals include: Providing innovative programs and services that enable healthy childhoods, collaborating with our communities to create greater social equity by addressing institutionalized barriers to equity for all people, and providing cutting-edge research and evaluation expertise that document what works to create healthy childhood development systems. We’ll be sharing more details throughout this year as we define key next steps for implementing this plan.
We can catapult these strategic directions due also to the significant foundations provided by our current and past members of Children’s Institute’s Board of Directors. In this issue, you will see a tribute to Jonathan Trost, a longtime board member who recently passed away. His family played a significant role in Primary Project. Jonathan’s commitments to this legacy at Children’s Institute remains deeply appreciated and impactful. We are fortunate to have a board filled with dedicated, innovative, thoughtful members who give of their time and talents with such generosity.
Children’s Institute has a long history of addressing young children’s social-emotional health by focusing on community collaborations utilizing a talented staff. With our new strategic plan and new outlooks in communities as vaccine access grows, we look forward to a period of positive growth in promoting children’s complete wellbeing with an equity lens and are grateful for your support as we continue on this journey.
–Ann Marie White, Ed.D.