By Galo A. Rodriguez, President & CEO, The Village for Families & Children
The death of George Floyd has elevated a conversation about racism and racial inequities in America. Now, more than ever, every organization, agency and individual must ask itself how it can do more to dismantle systemic racial inequalities. This includes The Village for Families & Children.
Over the last 200 years, The Village has done some reinventing with the times. Starting as one of Connecticut’s first and largest orphanages, it’s now one of the state’s largest providers of mental health services—offering residential programs for children who have experienced trauma, outpatient services for addiction, depression and anxiety, and programs for foster kids and their families.
Over the years, The Village has added after-school programs, a financial literacy center and a fatherhood initiative among many other services, helping more than 20,000 people each year heal from trauma and sustain happy families.
But – it’s not enough. Not anymore.
At a virtual staff meeting shortly after George Floyd’s murder, hundreds of Village employees committed to increasing efforts to create a more racially equitable community—by centering on improving access to services, expanding community-building initiatives, and engaging in reflection, dialogue and education to foster antiracism and systemic change.
- A warehouse at Village South (Hartford) has been completely renovated into an outpatient center for adults. The new facility will help serve people in the community where they live.
- The Village’s new telehealth program will increase access to clinicians for families who struggle with reliable transportation and multiple jobs.
- For families with children who have IEPs or have had psychological testing, The Village offers services to interpret and understand testing reports and other areas that may impact their learning—which also help tackle educational disparities.
- The Village’s Stronger Families, Stronger Futures collaborative provides families with home-based services integrated with other of care such as health, mental health, early childhood services, and early care and education.
The Village is also doubling down on efforts to help empower people of color in Greater Hartford. Through a partnership with United Way, Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) assists 10,000 people each year, saving families hundreds of dollars in tax preparation fees and collectively delivering millions of dollars back to the community.
This year, The Village is assisting with the U.S. Census to ensure everyone is counted, since people of color—especially children—are historically undercounted, resulting in myriad disadvantages. The Village is also working on new initiatives to increase voter registration, address affordable housing and augment job training opportunities for the under- and unemployed.
There’s much work to do. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice”—now it’s up to all of us to prove him right.