A Message from the Leadership Team of First Place for Youth

In recent weeks, high profile cases of police violence against Black Americans and the resulting worldwide protest movement have once again brought the issue of structural anti-Black racism to the forefront of national consciousness. We want to say without question or qualification that First Place for Youth believes that all Black lives matter, and we stand in full solidarity with our Black youth, team members, and local communities in the fight against police brutality and injustice.

At First Place our highest priority will always be to act in service to our young people, providing them with a safe, supportive environment in which to grow and achieve. But even as we work every day to help our young people on the path toward independence, we know that our youth of color—especially our Black youth—face hurdles of discrimination that cannot be removed through individual action and perseverance.

We recognize the pain felt so acutely right now. We know it is not born of a single moment or incident, but rather the result of lives lived under a long shadow of systemic racism. We acknowledge also that the young people we are here to serve have been deeply impacted by their experiences within the foster care and juvenile justice systems. These systems and others are still struggling to overcome their histories of entrenched racial inequity and discrimination that leave Black youth overrepresented and Black communities under supported.

Since our inception, we have been dedicated to eliminating the disparities between foster youth and their peers. This work cannot succeed through a “colorblind” approach. The reality is that First Place has always served predominantly Black youth, and we cannot and will not be neutral in the fight against systemic racism. We commit to:

  • Support and validate our Black youth, elevating their voices in conversations about their experiences and helping them become advocates for themselves and their communities.
  • Promote an organizational culture that respects and celebrates the identities of our youth and team members in all our interactions.
  • Respect the knowledge and expertise that our young people bring with them and include them as active partners in organizational decision-making on matters of program and policy.
  • Advocate at the local, state, and national level to move forward policies that address the structural inequities in the foster care and juvenile justice systems to ensure they are truly serving youth’s needs and best interests.
  • Offer best in class education and employment programming that seeks to end economic disparities for young people using an equity lens.
  • Leverage existing data on “what works” with our young people to develop innovative decision-support tools that create individualized service pathways designed to promote economic self-sufficiency for every young person we serve.
  • Discover and disseminate knowledge to the field that highlights disparities, identifies best practices in the delivery of services to our young people, and advocates for system-level reform in alignment with these learnings.

As we move forward, we will continue conversations and reflection within the organization to ensure we are following through on these commitments in positive and impactful ways.