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 May 2020, The Minnesota Prenatal to Three Coalition (2021) held a virtual convening with four goals in mind:
- learn about new data on infants and toddlers;
- explore how data on infants and toddlers is used to tell stories;
- identify and discuss the negative impact on infants, toddlers and young children when data are missing; and
- learn how to use existing databases to inform policy and planning decisions for infants and toddlers.
The group wanted to tightly tie data and storytelling together, understanding that it is most often the stories that have not been heard that result in poor policymaking. During the event, representatives from tribal communities encouraged researchers and those who pay for research to think differently about what is typically thought of as “best practice” in data collection: eliminating data that represents less than 1% of the population measured. While this exclusion is meant to protect privacy and remove outliers, when researchers remove data based on this rule, it is possible to lose stories about some minority populations, which often is the case for Native American communities. This convening resulted in a joint venture between Indigenous Visioning and the Coalition, its fiscal host Children’s Defense Fund MN, and lead partners to create a first-of-its-kind data sheet (Minnesota Prenatal to Three Coalition, n.d.) on American Indian infants, toddlers, and young families. To continue the connections between data and stories, advocates have begun the process of journey mapping with families in the state—another effective tool for understanding the real-life experiences of young children and their families.
To learn more about addressing bias and advancing equity in state policy read here.