It has been almost one year since TNOYS committed to redoubling our efforts to combat racism and inequity. As we reflect on the past 12 months, we’re reminded of the urgency and importance of this work for our organization and across youth-serving systems. Events such as the pandemic and the winter storm have shone a light on the systemic inequities that disproportionately impact young people of color and profoundly affect their lives.
What’s more, the continued systemic discrimination and racism we see perpetrated against people of color has been dehumanizing and traumatizing for the young people we work with every day. This is especially evident as we bear witness to the violence against Black, Latinx, and Asian communities and the shootings of young people of color like Adam Toledo, age 13, and Ma’Khia Bryant, age 16.
The systems we have in place to support young people can all too often inflict irreparable physical and psychological harm. In this time of crisis and reckoning, TNOYS is grateful to work with members, partners, and young people as we build support systems where all youth are safe and treated with dignity, and can thrive in a more equitable society with systems that support them instead of harm them.
Centering Equity on the TNOYS Team and Board of Directors
For the past two years, TNOYS has taken steps to acknowledge and address structural racism by doing internal work with our team. In our 2020 – 2021 strategic plan, we outlined equity and inclusion as critical guideposts of our work. We have since instituted a policy on diversity and inclusion and made changes to our hiring practices so that we can attract and develop a more diverse team. Now, our team is engaging in honest discussions, new training, and operational changes internally and through our work with member organizations.
To start, TNOYS is working with our Board of Directors to ensure that the representation of our board is reflective of the communities we serve. In January 2021, we began a board diversity and inclusion assessment with The New Philanthropists to help our organization prepare for the transformational process required to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion on our board. The assessment is helping us to identify our organization’s strengths and weaknesses and the potential challenges that might arise when implementing new processes, structures, and positions.
Ashley Elgin, TNOYS Board Member and Chief Executive Officer of Lena Pope Home, was grateful for the opportunity to participate. As Ashley shared, “It was a pleasure to participate in the Board’s focused time on diversity and inclusion— I thought the facilitators did a remarkable job. I look forward to sharing the training resources at Lena Pope as we enhance our own diversity and inclusion training opportunities, practices, and focus group opportunities.”
TNOYS is excited to continue our partnership with The New Philanthropists during our 38th Annual Conference, where the organization will host the pre-conference institute The Equity Chair for Leadership Teams. This institute will enable teams to take active roles as inclusive leaders while engaging their organizations in diversity, equity, and inclusion best practices. Learn more and register here.
Building a Culture of Inclusion at TNOYS
TNOYS welcomed new youth and young adult leaders to our team with the launch of our reimagined Young Adult Leadership Council in January. As we grow, we’re doing internal work to build a culture that is rooted in racial equity and that centers the voices of young people with lived expertise. Guided by tools such as Hart’s Ladder of Youth Participation, we’ve explored best practices for giving young people leadership opportunities in which they share decision-making power with adults.
We’re now going a step further with help from consulting firm Wayfinding Partners. Over the next several months, Wayfinding Partners will engage the team on a discovery, cultural assessment, and coaching sessions that aim to build a distinct, inclusive, and diverse organizational culture at TNOYS.
Looking Ahead: DEI Opportunities at TNOYS’ Annual Conference
TNOYS is excited to center diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the upcoming 38th Annual Conference on Services to Youth and Families. In addition to The Equity Chair for Leadership Teams pre-conference institute, the conference offers six workshops focused on equity and inclusion, covering topics such as Racial Bias & the Child Welfare System, Supporting Transgender Youth, Adultification of Black and Brown Youth, and more. Learn more about all we have in store at the annual conference here, and register here.
We know that this is just the beginning of a long path forward to ensuring equitable and inclusive systems, services, and supports for young people in Texas, but our commitment to these values is unwavering. We’re thankful for the partnership of our member network and youth leaders as we look to the journey ahead. If you have questions about TNOYS’ diversity, equity, and inclusion work and wish to learn more about how you can get involved, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.