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Lesley Brown Rawlings and Rhonda J. Broussard of Beloved Community

New Orleans Coalition Pushes for Child Care Measure with Multigenerational Effect

In February, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. awarded a $5 million Advancing Cities prize to the NOLA C.A.R.E.S. coalition (New Orleans Louisiana Creating Access, Resources and Equity for Success) to help child care workers and to expand access to affordable childcare. “This is one issue that everybody gets,” says Erika Wright, the bank’s vice president of global philanthropy. “People feel this acutely. Families are struggling, and the ripple effects impairs our economy’s ability to function.”

The award coincided with a campaign in support of a $21 million millage (a kind of tax). The measure, which has the support of Mayor LaToya Cantrell, is up for a vote on April 30. Via email, I interviewed two leaders of the Beloved Community—the lead organization for the prize—about their work: Rhonda J. Broussard (founder and CEO) and Lesley Brown Rawlings (vice president of strategy); they responded jointly to my questions.

What do our readers need to know about children and families in your community? And about your organization?

Collectively as a nation, families and communities have spent the last two years grappling with both the importance of child care, as well as the crippling impact of its absence. Within the City of New Orleans, our families have experienced a gap in child care that emerged long before COVID. Over 78% of our children are Black and Latinx, and our child care providers are predominantly Black and Brown as well. Yet the lack of access to capital and resources that these critical caregivers experience means that every year thousands of families are left unserved. In fact, recent data suggests that more than one third of Louisiana child care facilities are expected to close in the coming year due to insufficient funding and lack of operating capital.

What does this crisis mean for New Orleans?

As we have seen, when families are unable to find reliable, safe, high-quality care for their children, then guardians, disproportionately women, are forced out of the workforce as a result. Therefore in New Orleans, we are seeing a compounded effect. We’re observing BIPOC women who run small businesses suffer from structural racism that blocks their access to open and sustain child care facilities that serve the majority of children in the city. While, at the same time, we observe the guardians of those children, mostly Black and Brown women, losing access to employment opportunities in order to step into the full-time caregiver role. This results in a wholesale lack of economic mobility for BIPOC women across the city.

How is Beloved Community stepping up?

We are committed to supporting communities along a collaborative journey to advance economic mobility. Our work brings together transformative shifts around leader capacity, policy, data and research in order to support regions in achieving a tipping point towards equity. The NOLA C.A.R.E.S. project fully embodies our organizational mission and values. As we are headquartered in New Orleans, it is an honor to work in partnership with 11 other organizations over the next five years to seed changes that we believe will have a multigenerational effect on the city.

The NOLA C.A.R.E.S. collaborative consists of the following partner organizations:

Agenda for Children works to improve a child’s well-being by supporting, informing and empowering the adults who can impact their lives, including teachers, parents, policymakers and donors.

BanchaLenguas Language Justice Collective is a worker-owned collective based in New Orleans (also named Bulbancha by the original native peoples of this land and its descendants) … [Read more]

Your organization made news by taking Black History Month off. How did the sabbatical change or influence your thinking?

Our February sabbatical is anchored in the transformational power of rest. We deeply believe that only through rest can we reach our fullest potential as individuals and as a team. We initiated this practice two years ago, and each year we have new learnings and ways to approach the season. One of the reflections that we had following our 2021 sabbatical is that rest does not need to be “earned.” All people deserve to rest, and this practice is inclusive of all members of our team.

I name the importance of this learning because when we think about BIPOC womxn and caregivers in New Orleans, rest can present itself as a luxury. If you are inadequately resourced and supported, then rest is simply not an option, even if you understand its value. We believe that the work of the NOLA C.A.R.E.S. project is about expanding the access to resources and supports necessary to make rest a right, rather than a privilege for Black and Brown women throughout the city.

What is your plan for using the funds from JPMC’s Advancing Cities prize?

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. is a collaborative of 12 organizations from across the city and state who are committed to working together to foster Black and Latinx women-led child care businesses that value Black and Latinx women as caregivers, entrepreneurs, employees and mothers. Over the next five years, this collaborative will come together to implement two key interventions: one, introducing child care as a workplace benefit and two, providing capital and/or business and workforce training to support Black and Latinx women who provide child care for Black and Latinx families. To achieve this, we will advance three distinct pillars:

  • Caregiver Growth & Support: Over the course of the three-year commitment, the collaborative will help at least 120 Black and Latinx women receive a Child Development Associate certification and establish an Early Learning Facilities Fund to make low- or no-cost child care facilities more widely available.
  • Employer Capacity Building: Additionally we will create a cohort of 20 local hospitality businesses to develop and implement plans for racially equitable workplaces that help Black and Latinx women advance into management positions.
  • Local Policy: Finally, we will engage at least 500 women in participatory research and support public policy to provide low-cost facilities to child care centers and increase public subsidies and worker compensation in New Orleans.

What role is Beloved playing in the upcoming millage on a property tax dedicated to funding high-quality preschool seats?

Yes For NOLA Kids is a critical property tax millage for the future of our city. We’re proud to support the millage efforts because it will not only strengthen educational outcomes for our young people, but it will make it possible for more mothers to provide for their families. It’s encouraging to see so many of our local culture bearers, community leaders, elected officials and business leaders come out in support of adding 1,500 funded seats for early childhood education.

How does early childhood education fit into Beloved’s overall equity and anti-racism work?

Over the past several years, much has been said about the “preschool to prison pipeline.” That conversation stems from the knowledge that equitable access to a vibrant, thriving future is tied to the opportunities and experiences that the youngest members of our communities are able to access. When little people are trapped in cycles of poverty because their parents are locked out of the workforce, or when they enter kindergarten with a vocabulary deficit because they couldn’t attend a quality preschool, then they are beginning life at a disadvantage from which it can be incredibly difficult to recover. As Beloved Community works to create tipping points towards racial equity across the intersecting sectors of education, workforce and housing, we must consider our work holistically from our earliest experiences. Therefore we champion equity, not just when a child begins K-12 or when they graduate from college, but rather throughout every system that touches our lives.

Early Learning Nation columnist Mark Swartz writes for and about nonprofit organizations. Author of the children's books Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, Lost Flamingo, Magpie Bridge and The Giant of the Flood as well as a few novels, he lives in Takoma Park, MD, with his wife and two children.

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