In 2018, Amara purchased 29 acres in Pierce County with the goal of using the land to transform the way children and families experience foster care. As we embark on this project, we are committed to doing things differently beginning with a Community Engagement Process to help determine what will be built on the property. Learn more below!
What is Amara’s Community Engagement process in Pierce County?
Throughout 2019, in partnership with Reciprocity Consulting, we are conducting a Community Engagement Process to provide opportunities for community members to share their ideas, hopes, and dreams for how we can transform foster care together on these 29 acres in Pierce County. This process celebrates the diversity of ethnicities, cultures and languages in Pierce County, and offers an opportunity to come together to develop a shared vision.
Rather than depending on our own assessment of what is needed, we recognize the critical importance of slowing down and listening to the stated needs of the communities most impacted by foster care. We have already seen how this is a challenging commitment. The systems around us are not set up to support this approach. There is a great deal of trust to be built, and building trust takes time. Too often, “business as usual” tells us the faster the better; it tells us that speed is the best marker of success. In order to authentically show up in accountable relationships with the people in our community experiencing foster care, we must be willing to do things differently; to slow down; to hold off on certain plans and visions until we know we have heard everything our community has to say to us.
Community members are invited to lend their voices through an online survey, interviews, listening sessions, and house meetings. To get involved, people can contact PierceCommunity@AmaraPutsKidsFirst.org.
Why is it important to lead this process with racial equity?
We have an opportunity and an obligation to take a new approach to this work. To truly lead with racial equity, we must allow time and space to fully hear from the community about their vision for the property. Children, youth, and families at risk of entering the foster care system in Pierce County and those who have experienced foster care need and deserve to decide for themselves and their community what they need to be healthy and to thrive.
When organizations create projects based solely on our own assessment of what is needed, instead of heeding the expertise of our community, our work is set up for potential failure, right from the start. In fact, the communities who have been historically listened to the least are the ones who know what is needed the most. If we fail to center these voices in decision-making processes, we perpetuate an inequitable system.
Who are you engaging?
We all have a role to play in ensuring that children and families have access to needed services and programs and we want everyone to provide feedback – it is essential we hear all voices. We are intentionally reaching out and building relationships with communities of color in Pierce County and those who have been impacted by foster care. Specifically, we are inviting Black and Brown community members to lead the conversation, as we know these communities are over-represented in foster care: African American children are 2x more likely to enter foster care than white children; Native American children are 3x more likely.
When it comes to equity, we know that access matters. Certain voices have easier access to power and decision-making circles, including within the not-for-profit landscape. To ensure the participation of those who have historically been excluded from decision-making, we are centering and prioritizing those voices.
For additional info we recommend these resources:
“In any event, the crucial lesson here is one that spans a wide range of issue areas: How policymakers and other social change leaders pursue initiatives will determine whether those efforts succeed. If they approach such efforts in a top-down manner, they are likely to meet with failure.”
An excellent guide to the how-to of good Community Engagement: http://voicesforracialjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/VFRJ.Authentic-Community-Engagement.09.11.14.pdf
A great resource defining racial equity: https://www.centerforsocialinclusion.org/our-work/what-is-racial-equity/