Ensuring an equitable start for all babies requires understanding the influence of race, ethnicity, and racism in the lives of babies and families. As a result of the longstanding history of systemic racism and marginalization in the United States, babies in communities of color, particularly Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native infants and toddlers, are disproportionately at risk for poorer outcomes in each of ZERO TO THREE’s policy framework domains of well-being that are essential for healthy development—Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences.
In the second half of 2020, Raise Colorado ( https://www.raisecolorado.org/) implemented the Diverse Colorado Voices (Colorado Children’s Campaign, 2021) virtual listening sessions project in partnership with multiple local birth equity leaders in the state. The series of five listening sessions were held with partners, community members, local leaders, and parents. The goals of the listening sessions were to hear directly from advocates and community members about birth equity, align advocacy efforts with partner organizations, and identify community-led solutions in the perinatal period in Colorado. Recognizing the sensitive nature of the topic, project leads used several strategies to engage and support participants, including engaging local leaders that had deep connections to their communities.
These leaders cohosted the listening sessions, brought a racial justice lens to birth work, and had strong facilitation skills to approach often sensitive conversations and content. Project leads also coordinated with local mental health consultants to offer before and after services to session participants. Participants were also offered the option of one-on-one interviews for those who preferred to share their experiences privately. The listening sessions revealed issues that fell into three major categories: systemic racism, lack of postpartum support, and systems-level inadequacies such as insurance coverage gaps. Listening session participants were engaged in reviewing the resulting report to ensure that it accurately captured their perspectives and recommendations.
The report informed the development of a birth equity bill package under consideration by the Colorado state legislature during the 2021 legislative session and served as an advocacy tool to help advance the legislation. In addition, the project lead sat on the Birth Equity Leadership Committee to advance the bill package. The birth equity bill package is comprised of three bills that integrate the model of midwifery care, create a human rights framework for maternity care, bolster grievance processes for those who experience mistreatment, ensure perinatal support to incarcerated families, expand Medicaid reimbursement up to 1 year postpartum, and disaggregate data by race and ethnicity to address racial inequities in the perinatal period in Colorado.
To learn more about addressing bias and advancing equity in state policy read here.