African American Roundtable

African American Roundtable

March 2, 2012

Good afternoon, and welcome--I am happy to see everyone today! 

I want to thank the Director of the Office of Family Assistance, Earl Johnson and his team for coordinating this important meeting.  Special thanks to those who have traveled far to join us here today.

There is a wealth of talent in this room, and a deep bench of leaders working on issues that affect the African American community.  Among this accomplished group, I would like to recognize and thank Dr. Maurice Jackson, who recently spoke to our staff as part of ACF’s African American History Month events.  In that vein, today’s roundtable is especially timely.  And I think we’ve gained energy from these events, the kind of energy we need to push forward. I hope that we can continue to build on that energy.

In late 2011, ACF senior leadership engaged in a strategic planning process.  Our aim was to focus our efforts toward fully integrating our services for the benefit of our clients.  We honed in on 5 goals:

• Promoting economic and social well-being for individuals, families and communities;
• Promoting healthy development of children and youth;
• Promoting safety and well-being of children, youth and families;
• Supporting under-served and/or underrepresented populations; and
• Upgrading ACF’s capacity to make a difference for families and communities.

As part of our Strategic Initiatives Plan we aim to:
• Strengthen programs for underserved and underrepresented populations.
• Conduct outreach to stakeholders and providers.

Our Strategic Initiatives are intended to provide a more detailed roadmap toward our ultimate vision of ensuring that America’s children, youth, families, individuals, and communities are resilient, safe, healthy, and economically secure. Today’s roundtable is right in line with these goals and strategies.

Our efforts will be guided by the principles of accessibility, outreach and accountability—and I am asking all of you to please hold us to these principles.

We want our program leaders to think creatively about how we can better serve groups that have not been well served in the past, including African Americans.

We’re very mindful that despite the important strides that have been made over the years, African American children are still overrepresented among children in poverty; African Americans disproportionately face unemployment and low earnings, and that far more needs to be done to make the promise of opportunity a reality.

As a society, we’ve made progress toward a freer, more equal society.  But while we celebrate these accomplishments, we have miles to go before we sleep.  Our work here plays a crucial role in that effort.

As you know, one of our greatest concerns is what happens to young people.  As Frederick Douglass said-- “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

We understand that there is a robust relationship between strong families and communities and better futures for children.   So we’ve begun a series of conversations with people like you who represent organizations that are doing great work at the ground level.

President Obama said it best—“We have to recognize that any true solution will not come from Washington alone.  It will come from all of you.”

I will share one example of how ACF has sought to strengthen the impact of our programs on African American children and families. The Office of Community Services (OCS) oversees the Assets for Independence (AFI) Program, which offers households a path toward financial security by helping them  invest for the future—in things like education, homeownership, and business development. Some of our largest AFI grantees have strong partnerships with African American organizations and serve many African American men and women:
• Approximately 41% of AFI grantees focus their programs on service to African American families.
• More than a third of AFI account holders are African American.
 
My goal for this afternoon is to begin a dialogue on how ACF can reach more deeply and broadly into the African American community with effective programs that lift people up.   The ultimate aim of this meeting, from my perspective, is about creating more opportunities for African Americans to prosper.

I look forward to hearing your opinions and insights on how we can do a better job of reaching, serving and working with the African American community.

I will now turn things over to our moderator for this afternoon, Earl Johnson.