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Equity at PEPS: History and Reflection

The last several years have been a time of deep learning and reflection, and acknowledging mistakes we have made in our nearly 40 year history. This led us to prioritize racial equity across the organization.

PEPS has largely grown and remained in communities in Seattle and the surrounding areas that are predominantly white and middle/upper income. Systemic barriers and racist practices such as redlining resulted in specific neighborhoods around Seattle becoming increasingly white and wealthy. PEPS operates neighborhood-based groups that have primarily grown through word of mouth recommendation and we acknowledge that in these neighborhoods as well as others within our service area, there are many families of color we have not served or not served well.

As an organization, we know we can and must do better. We have been working towards this and our board and staff have committed to operating with a racial equity lens, which means that racial equity is embedded in our organizational culture, policies, and practices. Below, we share some concrete examples of what this has looked like at PEPS. This is an ongoing commitment, and we recognize that we will never be “done” with this work.

Organizational Changes

  • In 2017, we adopted racial equity as a priority and committed to invest deeply in learning and analysis around equity.
  • PEPS Board and Staff worked together and with racial equity consultants (Lara Davis, Diana Falchuk, Sara Lawson, Annie VonEssen, and Roberto Ascalon) to learn and examine the PEPS history, structure, programming, and more.
  • We adopted an organizational racial equity statement that now guides our work: PEPS Equity Statement: We believe that all new families should have access to a healthy, supported start in life. As long as race and ethnicity continue to predict the future life chances of children in our state, we are committed to working with families, partner organizations, and communities to identify barriers to parent support and wellness, interrupt their negative impact and eliminate the persistent disparities in child outcomes.
  • We reworked organizational structures (such as board committees), policies and procedures, and hiring practices in order to be a more diverse and equitable organization.
  • In 2017, PEPS reorganized our staffing structure and hired three Community Connectors, who work in our northern, eastern, and southern regions to understand how to best meet unique community needs, identify service gaps and barriers to parent support, and to develop community partnerships.
  • As a staff and board, we utilize the White Supremacy Culture Framework by Jones and Okun to examine and name ways that white supremacy culture is showing up so we can interrupt their negative impact.
  • We changed our hiring process and practices, including building in more time for recruitment and examining and interrupting bias built into job requirements. We committed to slowing down the process and taking longer to ensure a diverse pool of applicants.
  • We work to ensure that our communications represent diverse voices, perspectives, and experiences.
  • We developed a new mission, vision, and values to reflect and ingrain a long term commitment.
  • We conducted an organizational assessment, getting input from parents and organizations in the community to learn about how we can better show up for families in our region. Parents shared with us the biggest barriers to PEPS – including that we host many of our groups in homes, the program fee, and the fact that we offer English-only groups. We’ve taken action to break down those barriers by providing more groups in community sites, offering Flexible Pricing, and translating our curriculum into Spanish. We also learned about the larger challenges we’re all facing - like access to affordable childcare, housing and transportation.

Programming Changes:

  • We conducted an anti-bias review of our curriculum (with early childhood anti-bias consultant, Debbie LeeKeenan), directly resulting in updates to our language and discussion topics that act against bias and better convey an embrace of differences.
  • We did a mapping project to evaluate where PEPS is reaching the most families and examined this alongside data on race, socioeconomics and where families with young children are living. This informed the development of an intentional growth plan.
  • We developed a series of leader training videos with a focus on inclusive facilitation, honoring and celebrating diversity.
  • We developed PEPS group discussion topic guides on Racial and Social Identity Development.
  • We provide learning opportunities and share resources with parents on talking about race with young children.
  • We offer advanced facilitation training annually for PEPS Group Leaders on social & racial identity development.
  • We have cultivated meaningful partnerships with community-based organizations through which we've learned and adapted our model to serve Spanish-speaking moms, parents in South King County, and teen moms.  In these partnerships, we continue to invest PEPS resources and staff to train folks at partner organizations on the PEPS model and curriculum, and these organizations have informed us about how we can adapt the model to be more responsive to the needs of the parents in these groups.

What’s Next?

We incorporated what we have learned and developed a new strategic direction. Starting in 2020, PEPS will be taking bold action to be an organization that not only lives its values and is accessible to all parents and families, but also one that speaks up and advocates for equity in our region.

We are committed to recognizing and learning from our past, engaging in honest reflection, and taking action. We are committed to making our services more available and accessible to communities who want them. We are also committed to making every PEPS group a place where diversity is acknowledged, nurtured, celebrated, and valued. And still, we must do more.

The PEPS commitment to racial equity means more listening, learning, collaborating, adapting, and being open to doing things in new ways. Focusing and looking through a racial equity lens will help guide us in this work.

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