September 22, 2019
 
We Want to Be the Change that We Advocate

By Imari Paris Jeffries

Imari Paris Jeffries
While Parenting Journey works to disrupt the social narrative around parenting in poverty, we felt we needed to make sure that the way we develop and deliver our services supports our mission to improve economic and social justice.

Parenting Journey wants to lead by example and recently took deliberate steps to ensure all aspects of our work, dismantle, rather than enforce, systems of oppression. We cannot provide direct services to our constituents in a vacuum. In order to truly get to the heart of the systemic barriers that make our parent programming necessary, we need to become advocates. We need to live our values.

To start, Parenting Journey invested in our workforce by ensuring every member of our team earns at least $15 per hour and created a paid family leave program before there was a law requiring one. We’ve joined forces with various coalitions, including Raise Up Massachusetts, to support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and equitable paid family and medical leave.

We are offering consistent and flexible scheduling options, encouraging ongoing professional development, and helping staff to shape our organization’s culture. We’ve changed our job recruitment tactics to promote equity, by listing salary ranges, removing educational requirements from non-clinical positions and more. And most importantly, we continuously review what more we can do to treat our workers fairly and create pipelines that incubate diverse leadership.

After evaluating what has worked for Parenting Journey, we found it necessary to take a step back and determine overall and individual goals ”“ both annually and quarterly.

We’ve increased efforts to encourage a diverse pipeline of leadership offering continued diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings and initiatives, including an employee-led Climate and Culture Committee to guide the organization’s work and focus on areas that are collectively important to the team.

Most recently, 12 members of the Parenting Journey staff participated in YW Boston’s Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity program, discussing internal biases, white supremacy culture, micro-aggressions, and privilege while determining what we as individuals and an organization could do moving forward.

To that end, we have created two designated board positions for individuals who graduated from our programs and launched an advisory committee of program participants to help guide issue advocacy. We want voices on our board that embody the constituents who face systemic barriers each day, whether that’s putting a meal on the dinner table, paying for childcare, or simply not having a support system nearby.

In its first year, our 40-member Parent Advisory Council created the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which has been endorsed by the Boston City Council and Somerville School Committee and helps guide our advocacy work. (Similarly, other nonprofit organizations are centering their service delivery through the creation of ombudsmen and client committees.)

We also created a Social and Family Justice Fellowship, in which two community leaders, Tito Jackson and Marie St. Fleur, have supported the parent’s advocacy work.

Implementing the above initiatives, internally and externally, has allowed us to approach our work in a holistic manner. Providing Parenting Journey, the opportunity to engage with our constituents in multiple ways. While there will always be more to do, so far, our efforts have empowered our parents, caregivers and employees to raise their voices in unity to fight for basic rights that all families deserve.

Imari Paris Jeffries is executive director of Parenting Journey, a nonprofit based in Somerville that provides programs that uplift parents and caregivers and strengthen families and communities, and advocates for equitable family policies. Connect with him at twitter.com/askimari.
July 2019

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