Equity. It is a term heard a lot these days. And yet, if you ask 10 people what it means, you might get 10 different answers. We are pleased to continue our “What Equity Means to Me Series” inviting members of our community to share their insights around what equity looks like in practice. Together, we can move Orange County forward, implementing and aligning with the 10 +1 next steps as recommended in the OC Equity Profile.
Our 7th blog post comes from Kimberly Goll, President & CEO of First 5 Orange County. She shares why equity means doing everything we can as a community to make sure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Kim is a member of OCG.
Equity Must Begin with a Child’s First Breath
By Kimberly Goll, President/Chief Executive Officer, First 5 Orange County
When, exactly, does equity become an important concept in a child’s life?
The moment he or she takes their very first breath.
A growing body of research is making it irrefutably clear that healthy brain development in infants and toddlers plays an enormously critical role in setting them on a lifelong path of good health, happiness, learning and success. It is impossible to overstate the importance of exposing children to early positive developmental experiences – supported by strong foundational relationships with adults – to help them hit the ground running when they enter kindergarten.
To me, then, equity means doing everything we can as a community to make sure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Sadly, we aren’t there yet. Many Orange County children – lower-income and Black and Latinx children – are falling behind their peers due to persistent inequities in income levels and systemic barriers to accessing a range of supports from health care to early learning opportunities.
For the past several years, a powerful tool called the Early Development Index (EDI) has allowed child advocates around the world – including right here in Orange County – to peer deeply into the kindergarten-readiness of their communities’ children. Using a set of age-appropriate developmental domains, the EDI helps us determine how our youngest children are faring, and then allows us to zero in and engage with specific neighborhoods in improving outcomes for their kids.
Using data culled from the EDI, a recent major study underscored the existence of persistent inequities in the health-development domains, such as physical health and wellbeing, emotional maturity, and language and cognitive development. The study, which involved nearly 184,000 kindergarteners in 98 school districts across the nation, found that inequities were much more pervasive among children from the lowest-income neighborhoods and Black and Latinx kids.
As Americans, the notion that education is the “great equalizer” is deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness; that, by making sure our children have unfettered access to educational opportunities, every one of them has a clear path to achieving the American dream, however they define it. Yet for far too many children, that dream is just that – a dream they may never attain due to intractable inequities they face early in their formative years.
At First 5 Orange County, we’re focusing our efforts on removing the systemic barriers that create those dream-denying inequities among our most vulnerable populations of children. The rich data the EDI yields is creating a promising opportunity for us to ensure equity for all of our children.
We invite Orange County Grantmakers and the entire community to join us in this exciting and important effort.
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