CEO Kathryn Shea’s Message on Racial Disparity

Sent to staff on 6/12/2020

Dear Florida Center Family,

I want to reach out to all of you at this very difficult time in our country and our world.  The past nearly four months have been highly emotionally and mentally taxing.  First, we are hit with COVID-19, the lockdown, social distancing, home schooling, and then the awful racial unrest and injustice that has occurred in the past several weeks.  It is truly overwhelming.

As a social activist of many years, I cannot express to you my deep sorrow about all that is transpiring and I personally condemn the killings, injustices, and inequities against Black people that are so apparent today, and that have existed throughout the history of our country.  I lived through the 60’s, a time of great racial division and unrest, and I never thought I would witness anything remotely close to that again.  But, here we are, still fighting the same fight.  It’s not just racial inequity we are fighting, but also health and education inequities.

I want to make it very clear to all of you, this agency and its Board of Directors stand by our Core Values and the Social Work Code of Ethics.  We stand by and support each and every one of you; your beliefs, your culture, your religion, and your politics.  We are an inclusive family and we treat each other with respect, reserve judgement, and lend support to each other at all times.  Nothing less is acceptable to our agency culture.

I also want to suggest to all of you that this is a golden opportunity and “Call to Action” to become involved in social justice reform at whatever level you are comfortable.  For some, like me, that does include participating in peaceful protests, social advocacy, letter writing to government officials, speaking out respectfully and taking a stand with family and friends.  I became a social worker because I believe it is important to be a part of social policy reform for those who are marginalized.  I believe this is also an opportunity to have these tough discussions with our clients and the importance of teaching our children the values of inclusion and acceptance of all people.  Racism is taught and we must work to end the perpetual generations that teach this to their children.

Change is “messy” and uncomfortable, but a necessary process if we are ever to have lasting peace and justice in our world.  We are hopeful that this time will bring about long overdue and sustainable change. But clearly hope without action is empty, and we all need to work to be a part of the solution for Black people and all people of color.  We all have a responsibility to fulfill our country’s pledge of “with liberty and justice for all”.  I’m so remembering the words of President John F. Kennedy today, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  We are one family and we stand united.  Let’s keep the discussion going.  May God bless each and every one of you and keep you safe.

In unity and solidarity, Kathryn

CORE VALUES of The Florida Center for Early Childhood:

Exceptional Leadership: We are champions of effective board leadership and action. Leadership empowers boards to add value through oversight, foresight, and insight. We empower staff initiative and encourage leadership.

Integrity and Accountability: We are accountable to all of our stakeholders: our community, constituents, donors, board, staff, volunteers, collaborators, and funders. As responsible stewards, we operate with honesty and transparency that earns the public’s trust. This reflects an alignment between what we say, what we do, and how we do it.

Excellence: We are committed to a strong ethic of quality, along with timely and consistent services across all programs. Our staff provides promising and evidence-based practices with a high level of fidelity to the program models and their measurable outcomes.

Advocacy and Empowerment: We empower those we serve through teaching and modeling to advocate for themselves and their children’s needs. Staff, board members, and volunteers advocate at a local and state level for the funding required to sustain essential services. 

Compassion: We act with compassion towards the children and families we serve. We treat them with dignity, recognize their strengths, and acknowledge and respect their stories.