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Serving Children and Families with Equity and Inclusion

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Larisa Owen
July 15, 2020

To say that race and gender are highly significant arenas of inequity that need greater attention, and at the same time assert that other characteristics of children and parents affect equity and exclusion in profound, damaging ways, does not detract from either concern. It is possible to hold two contrasting—not opposing, but contrasting—views in mind without devaluing either of them.

And so it is essential to gather data on children and parents with disabilities, including those who are invisibly screened out of benefits and educational opportunities. It is also essential to gather data on the harmful effects of stigma against persons with substance use disorders and cognitive disabilities, and on the effects of trauma and adverse childhood experiences, with the inclusion of the impact of race and gender.

Screening only for race and gender, and seeking to correct the inequity in these arenas, may overlook other harm and exclusion affecting millions of children and their parents. That harm may overlap with race and gender (as well as characteristics such as income), but the data suggest that equating the two sets of barriers may overlook important distinctions specific to each kind of barrier.

Gather, review, respond and improve. Gathering data on race and gender along with other characteristics and then reviewing the responses, or lack thereof,  will assist local governments, counties, insurance companies, managed care organizations, private physicians, hospitals and schools to ensure that consistent review of the data on race and gender is utilized for improvement. This data on race, gender and other characteristics can be used to screen and provide appropriate services and proper practice and policy responses to adequately respond to the needs of children and families.

This will ensure a multi-dimensional picture of children and families that may add to the voice of those who have too often been invisible in agencies’ caseloads, such as children of veterans. Children of veterans in K-12 schools, who are never identified at enrollment in any form, merit that schools screen and track race, gender and the other such characteristics of these children, the services they need and receive and the outcomes and duration of outcomes for these children. Such screening, assessments and data collection is needed to determine the relationship between those services needed, services received and the students’ characteristics. When those characteristics are identified in more depth and detail, it will be possible to determine how much race, gender, and income correlate with other adverse childhood experiences that are more difficult to identify.

A high percentage of veteran families are lower income, formerly enlisted service members. This raises important issues of equity and inclusion. The negative consequences of PTSD, TBIs, and other combat‐related mental injuries are additional stressors in these families. Veterans with children reported experiencing educational, health, mental health and/or behavior problems, including anxiety, grief, depression and aggression, with lower academic scores than non-military peers. The diversity and lower-income status of a sizable portion of the veteran population, who have children, demands greater attention to equity.


Author: Larisa Owen, Ph.D., M.B.A. [email protected]Dr. Owen is a Program Director with Children and Family Futures.  Dr. Owen works on several project including leading the Veterans and Military Families (VMF) projects within the organization, including planning and implementation of veterans treatment courts (VTC) evaluation and technical assistance involving families in the VTC.  Dr. Owen has extensive experience evaluating the effectiveness of program implementation, program enhancement, and evaluation methods for state and national programs including training and evaluation of collaborative programs. Dr. Owen received her Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Legal Studies, holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration, and has a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Law

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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