Finding the Middle Ground

The BCC Compass – November 2022

 

I’m the middle child in my family.

Growing up, this often meant that I was the one constantly promoting peace between my siblings. Given how close I was in age to both my older and younger sisters, I was able to connect with them in different ways. Being sandwiched in the middle forced me to consider both sides, to find the balance.

I was the peacemaker.

It’s funny how the roles we played in our families growing up often influence who we are as adults. Today, I’m a social worker — it’s my job to find the middle ground.

One of the first things I learned when I began my education in social work is that you can’t actually find a middle ground without identifying the farthest edges first. Considering the opposing sides — the two extremes — is necessary when it comes to arriving where you need to be in a compromise.

As we come out of this recent election and prepare for a time of Thanksgiving, I think that finding this middle ground is more important and relevant than ever before.

There will always be people who have different thoughts than you, different beliefs. We need to find space in our brains for all ideas, because that is how you find the middle. It’s how you discover what you do believe in and what you don’t believe in. The whole idea that someone is right and someone is wrong goes against equity, diversity and inclusion. Seek to understand. Keep an open mind. Be open to learning.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a great opportunity to exercise this mental flexibility. Remember the skits we did in preschool and Kindergarten about the first Thanksgiving? Remember how the “Pilgrims” and native people were portrayed? We now know that these facts weren’t exactly accurate. We need to unlearn what we thought to be true and be open to understanding that that wasn’t the correct way to think about native people or the history of the United States.

This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to do the hard work. To have those tough conversations. The older we all get, the more I’ve found things to be unifying, especially if you’re on the lookout for them.

Wishing everyone a safe, peaceful Thanksgiving holiday!

Laurie Anne “LA” Spagnola
President & CEO

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The Importance of Empathy

The BCC Compass – July 2022

 

Fostering a healthy culture where everyone can engage in joy and purpose is not just my job at the Board of Child Care (BCC). It’s everyone’s job. That’s why in times of upheaval and uncertainty, we all need to support each other.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. This ruling led to a range of feelings for people in our BCC community, ranging from ragged, raw and scared for the future to jubilant and relieved.

It’s hard to understand your own emotions, no less the emotions of others and the differences of opinions around the ruling. As the nation navigates this new environment, I’ve asked our team to use the core values of relationships and empathy to help support one another. Look for places of agreement and understanding. Focus on similarities rather than differences. Listen to colleagues and then share your own thoughts and feelings. Don’t make assumptions about others based on what your life is like. And most importantly, be respectful.

Along with peer support and empathy, BCC has a variety of services to help team members process this and other situations that cause stress, including a free Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

At BCC we know that it is our differences that make us a strong and inclusive workplace. Through these supports, we hope our entire team can continue to be their authentic and best selves.

Warmly,
LA Spagnola
President & CEO

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Building a Bulletin Board

The BCC Compass — June 2022

 

Big ideas don’t always start big.

Often, they start with a simple bulletin board.

When we launched the Board of Child Care’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee in 2020, we knew to achieve lasting, sustainable success, we couldn’t do everything at once. So, we added short-term, tangible goals to our bulletin board – goals we could build upon to enhance our long-term commitment to EDI.

Among those initial goals: incorporate more diverse voices on our Board of Directors.

At BCC, we are committed to honoring differences, acknowledging uniqueness and amplifying all voices. A culture of inclusivity empowers individuals at every level to enrich communities, one family at a time. A Board of Directors that only allows U.S. citizens as members is not inclusive.

I’m happy to share that we removed the citizen requirement from our by-laws at our June Board meeting earlier this month. That change allowed the Board at that same meeting to approve adding a new board member that is a Mexican citizen, attorney and a tremendous advocate for BCC and its programs.  This individual is beginning their Board orientation next month and will attend their first official meeting later in 2022.

Another goal: Improve our celebration and understanding of Juneteenth.

In 2021, just days before the federal government approved Juneteenth as a federal holiday, BCC put together its first Juneteenth celebration. Staff members who worked that day received double pay, and we organized meals at several BCC campuses. But we quickly realized we didn’t include enough staff in the planning for the day.

This year, we reached out to more staff members and received more feedback on how to celebrate Juneteenth. We also added more educational opportunities about the holiday so staff throughout BCC could gain a deeper understanding about the day’s meaning.

As each month passes, we add more goals to our bulletin board. It has become an amazing platform for our committee, and as a result, our entire team.

This month, I challenge you and your families to start your own EDI bulletin boards with your own professional or personal goals.

Warmly,
LA Spagnola
President & CEO

 

 

 

 

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Amplifying Hispanic & Latino Voices

The BCC Compass – May 2022

 

There’s beauty in the unexpected.

As we continue our work to become a more equitable, diverse and inclusive organization, I have witnessed more growth and positivity than I could have ever imagined.

I’m especially proud of our efforts to amplify Hispanic and Latino voices.

One example is our recent employee recruitment efforts for the Caminos program, which provides safe, secure placement options for children who have recently migrated to the United States and are seeking opportunities for reunification with family. About 80 percent of the children in the Caminos program are from Central America and speak Spanish, so it makes sense to hire team members who also speak Spanish.

Yet despite our usual recruitment and hiring efforts, we just weren’t reaching enough potential applicants. Last year, we began translating our recruitment materials into Spanish and posting flyers in Spanish community centers to encourage more applicants.

We also partnered with board member Gabriela “Gaby” Romo, who hosts a weekly radio show in Spanish about mental health. Board of Child Care team members are guests on the show, discussing our valuable resources with the Hispanic community.

And this spring, we added a “translate” option on the Board of Child Care website. Users can now view the site in English or Spanish.

As a result of these efforts and more, we’ve seen an increase in Spanish-speaking applicants.

We also continue to advocate for change in states like Pennsylvania, where child welfare staff must pass a medication administration test to give medicine to children. Currently, the test is only offered in English. Offering the test in Spanish or allowing a translator would help us be more inclusive and effective for those in need.

In closing, I’d like to give a special thanks to our Hispanic and Latino board members, who lend their voices and expertise to our organization every day. Roberto Allen and Gaby, none of this would be possible without your help. Thank you for your dedication to the Board of Child Care community! I look forward to welcoming even more Hispanic and Latino board members in the future.

Warmly,
LA Spagnola
President & CEO

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I Hear You

The BCC Compass – April 2022

 

Board of Child Care is committed to a healthy culture where everyone can engage with joy and purpose.  In order to achieve this kind of brave space, the agency relies on feedback from you. From Open Forums to anonymous comments provided in our online system and lots of things in between, I hear you and learn from you. This week, we kick off our semiannual, online employee survey – an important tool in measuring employees’ commitment, motivation and sense of purpose in their jobs and their views and attitudes toward our organization.

The survey is incredibly valuable, as it provides insight into what our employees need and want. It also helps me and other Board of Child Care leaders shape future policies and practices that remove barriers and build momentum so we can do our special work from an improving foundation. Some of the things we changed because of staff feedback include: more vacation time, more health insurance options and improved lighting in our communities to enhance safety. Asking staff for their ideas helps make BCC better in lots of different ways!

This year, in keeping with our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategic Plan, the employee survey will give us additional insights into how people identify and where the agency needs to focus to continue our journey with honoring differences, acknowledging uniqueness and amplifying all voices.  Our EDI committee helped us add several new questions to the survey, including:

  • Do you identify as transgender?
  • What is your family status?
  • What is your sexual orientation?
  • Are you a person with a disability?

We also added new statements where employees can share if they strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree or strongly disagree, including:

  • People are treated fairly regardless of their gender identity.
  • I believe I work in an inclusive workplace regarding class, gender, identity, race, religion, age and sexual orientation.
  • I believe staff members are treated fairly at the Board of Child Care.
  • When I speak up, my opinion is valued.

To protect employees’ identity, survey responses are anonymous. Employees can also select “prefer not to specify” on certain questions.

While I may not have the opportunity to personally meet every BCC employee, I spend hours reviewing each survey response to understand how we can make our employees’ lives and organization great. Thank you for providing feedback. I am hearing you.

Earlier this month, we also hosted our first ever Clinician Appreciation Day. It was tons of fun with more than 50 talented clinicians and interns gathering for a day of team-building, gratitude-sharing, restoration, crafts and food. Each participant also received two hours of paid time off for self-care. Self-care helps build our resilience so we can do our special work, enriching communities one family at a time.

The event was just one of the many ways we intentionally foster belongingness that feeds a deep sense of purpose and joy at BCC. Thank you, clinicians, for being part of our team!

Warmly,
LA Spagnola
President & CEO

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Open Forums Expand

The BCC Compass – March 2022

 

One year ago in West Virginia, we launched our Open Forums initiative – an opportunity for members of our BCC family to share ideas and maintain a culture where we can learn and grow together.

After an engaging discussion, forum participants were motivated to continue these crucial conversations and foster genuine relationships with one another.

That’s why I am incredibly excited that this year, we are implementing bi-annual Open Forums at each of BCC’s six campuses. It’s yet another way our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan 2022–2025 is helping our organization enhance a culture of assessment and accountability for inclusivity at every level.

The idea for these forums was born out of our racism town halls, which were held at our Early Learning Program in Washington D.C.

Here’s how the Open Forums work.

Before each event, leaders of individual campuses meet with EDI Committee members to learn about potential discussion topics and how to constructively receive feedback from staff.
Recognizing some topics may be hard to discuss or trigger emotional reactions, staff members start each forum by reviewing the “safety commitments.” These commitments help participants provide support to each other and give and receive feedback in a healthy and respectful manner.

Then, the discussions begin. After each forum, leaders take what was discussed and come up with solutions to address concerns and improve inclusivity.

For example, during a recent forum at BCC’s Mechanicsburg, PA campus, staff members said they wanted more education to better support LGBTQ+ youth who are transitioning. We are now incorporating intensive training based around the LGBTQ+ community and affirming care for leadership and staff.

To make it easy for all staff to attend the forums, we will offer both in-person and online options.

It’s amazing to see our staff courageously express what they want and need to feel connected to the people we serve and each other.

Our commitment is to amplify all voices. With these forums, we hope to create a safe space where people can open their minds and hearts to endless possibilities.

To learn when your next Open Forum takes place, please reach out to your senior campus leader.

Warmly,
Laurie Anne “LA” Spagnola
President & CEO

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Enhancing Engagement and Intercultural Development

The BCC Compass – February 2022

 

Understanding change – how it happens and why it’s needed – can be hard.

As humans, we naturally crave what’s familiar to us. While we can stretch ourselves, leaving our comfort zones is, well, uncomfortable.

That’s why true, long-lasting change takes time.

One of our goals in the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan 2022–2025 is to enhance engagement and intercultural development.

We have laid the foundation for this goal over the past few years, hosting events like our Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations and conducting trainings around bias and LGBTQ issues.

These events and trainings have built upon each other and created uplifting and enlightening experiences for our community. But to achieve deeper intercultural engagement, we need to do more.

Over the next three years, we have committed to sponsoring quarterly, “all staff” professional development events, educational workshops and activities that will raise awareness of inclusion, diversity, equity, biases and microaggressions. One example of this is the anti-black racism workshop we hosted in 2021. More than 200 staff members participated in this workshop, and we look forward to seeing continued interest as we plan our events for 2022.

We will also add more training opportunities for leaders by partnering with EDI experts outside of BCC. These training sessions will benefit the entire organization, as leaders will share the knowledge gained with their teams. The sessions will also be recorded and loaded into our learning management system for all staff members to access.

As we collaborate with more partners, we will continue to curate our library of learning with course content and resources that highlight diverse perspectives, practices and methodologies by various cultures.

This work will take time, but it will be time well spent. Remember: long-lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. The change that sticks is the change that is persistent.

What ideas or topics would you like to see addressed during our professional development events or training? I welcome your feedback!

Warmly,
Laurie Anne “LA” Spagnola
President & CEO

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The BCC Compass – January 2022

by LA Spagnola

 

At the Board of Child Care, we have always been committed to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

People with diverse lived experiences and backgrounds consistently come together with unique voices to help push our mission work forward and uphold the belief that we can and will enrich communities, one family at a time.

Still, we never had an established plan to ensure we grow in our EDI efforts.

So last year, our dedicated EDI Committee developed BCC’s “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan 2022-2025” – a three-year plan that includes multiple approaches to elevate the overall culture of BCC. We have identified the following goals:

  • Enhance engagement and intercultural development
  • Sustain assessment, accountability and commitments
  • Expand pathways for access and employee success

Over the next few months, we will dig into these goals on The BCC Compass, sharing our objectives for each and steps we are taking to achieve success.

We will also continue to offer the open forums we launched last year. These forums help BCC leaders understand barriers and identify strategies to increase the overall sense of belonging.

Each of us has a role to play in this important effort. My hope is that in three years, the benefits of diversity and inclusion will become undeniable and will be embedded in the way we create policy, interact with our community and maintain professional environments.

Together, our team can magnify our impact, foster a healthy culture where we engage in joy and purpose and remove barriers while building momentum.

Thank you for joining me on the journey!

Warmly,

Laurie Anne “LA” Spagnola

President & CEO

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The BCC Compass December 2021

Holidays Across Cultures

The Board of Child Care has the pride and privilege of being the workplace of choice for so many people representing countless cultures and nations. During this time of year, our community’s focus shifts to reflect on the year and prepare for the new year ahead. As an organization that is striving to be progressive and aware of our diversity, we take the time to honor and learn the different ways our community chooses to celebrate this time. Check out a few tips on acknowledging differences during this holiday season:

  1. Host a Diversity Potluck where team members can bring foods that represent who they are. The act of eating together is communal for so many people and will allow for genuine engagement to take place.
  2. Share photos from the holiday to give your teams a preview of your life outside of work. While doing mission-driven work it becomes easy to lock in and only focus on work. However, we are people with lives and stories it’s important to share and create community.
  3. Host professional development opportunities that allow for people to learn the history behind holiday practices. Call on your team members to lead these conversations to add personal stories and experiences.

Maintaining inclusive workplaces allows for you to be creative on how to build community. During this holiday season take the time to lean in and embrace the diversity that exists within your teams.

On behalf of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, I wish everyone a safe and healthy holiday season.

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The BCC Compass – November 2021

Expanding Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion competency through Professional Development.

Professional Development opportunities, in concept, appears to be super easy to organize. “I get to grow as a professional, for free, with my co-workers” who wouldn’t want that? However, when it comes to creating and maintaining workplace environments that are knowledgeable and forward thinking, the intentionality behind creating professional learning opportunities becomes even more important. At the Board of Child, we believe that educating our communities on core Diversity and Inclusion Competencies is the foundation to promote inclusion on all levels of an organization. To take on this huge responsibility it was important for us to identify partners and teachers in an industry that is so broad and dynamic.

As an EDI facilitator my first job is to be aware that I am the “knower of nothing”. Regardless of how much formal education I have completed, books that I read, and trainings that I have led, there is no way that I can ever be an absolute expert on all things Diversity and Inclusion. What I do know is that my passion, my lived experiences, and of course my professional training provide me with a foundation to bring people together to learn about and move in a justice mindset. I pride myself most on being able to identify other professionals to partner with to ensure that the policies, initiatives, and learning opportunities that our agency creates is effective and truthful.

This year our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee worked hard to identify outside partners that could assist in our learning journey. To ensure that our goal of educating our employee population was attainable, the committee decided to host 4 professional learning opportunities on a quarterly basis focusing on the following topic areas: Anti-Black Racism, LGBTQ+ & Affirming Care, Cultural Humility, and Equitable Workplaces. To ensure that the content being delivered was interesting and relevant, we chose to partner with Diversity Trainers from diverse professional backgrounds with experience and passion for the subject matter. Collaboration is essential for any human service organization, especially for matters of Diversity and Inclusion. This journey can’t be done alone and its important to reach out and build community with professionals who can push your organization in the direction of inclusivity.

Tapping into social media networks like LinkedIn, Instagram and Clubhouse are both casual and professional ways of searching for Diversity speakers. Google is another great tool to use to identify other organizations that are doing great work in the community. Attend networking events where you have an opportunity to share the EDI journey that your organization is on an solicit the advice from others. As you can see, creating professional development opportunities, especially about Diversity and Inclusion is no easy task. It takes time to research and find the right person to partner with and speak to diverse audiences on matters that cause for vulnerability and unlearning, and that’s okay. In the end you are creating partnerships with longevity and professional development opportunities that will be impactful.

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