Staying True to Your Mission in Uncertain Times
By Gabriel Sanchez
We chose not to remain silent. We decided to honor our staff members’ passion on the issue, in the most responsible and nonpartisan manner possible. And we acted.
We decided to shed light on how the Administration’s decisions were keeping families of young children from seeking services out of fear, without taking a specific position on the new immigration policies. We issued a public statement explaining how parents’ heightened fear of detention and deportation had become a priority issue affecting young children and their families throughout Los Angeles County, and described our plans to address the problem.
After all, as our executive director said in an article for the Chronicle of Social Change, our decision to act was, indeed, staying true to our mission.
Immigrant parents were pulling their children out of preschool, new moms declined voluntary home visiting programs and parents were turning away from health services. Thousands of immigrant parents living in fear had withdrawn from accessing services their children are legally entitled to receive.
That translated to the health and development of thousands of children being put into jeopardy, and that is where First 5 LA came in.
We announced several steps to address the impact of immigration fears on young children, including:
- Joining 200 philanthropic institutions representing local, state, regional and national foundations from across the country by signing the bipartisan Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) Joint Statement.
- Contributing to a project led by the California Community Foundation to ensure organizations serving young children and their families (early care and education providers, home visitors, WIC staff) have the necessary information to reassure clients about protection of their information and the importance of continuing to utilize the public resources available to their families.
- Joining First 5 Commissions across the state to distribute a helpful resource guide titled, “Care, Cope, Connect” developed by Sesame Street Workshop to help parents initiate conversations with their children about community stress and separation.
- Exploring, through its Best Start Communities effort, partnerships with trusted community-based organizations to help them better respond to the needs of the immigrant community with their existing resources. These organizations are not immigration rights or legal providers, but in their daily interaction with the immigrant community, these groups are often asked to provide additional resources and information.
- Examining what role First 5 LA can play in providing adequate outreach and response to support the upcoming 2020 Census. The data gathered by the Census is critical to First 5 LA’s current and future programming and planning efforts
In hindsight—and as we continue to see policies that are raising the level of fear of deportation among the nation’s immigrants—opting to speak out still feels like the right move.
We may not be a in a true war zone, but for many young children these issues are critical to their health and well-being and staying silent would directly contradict what we at First 5 LA are here to do: valuing our customers, showing how we care, and in the process, staying true to our mission.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gabriel Sanchez is a 20-year veteran of California politics and public affairs. He currently serves as Director of Communications for First 5 LA.