CEO Anne Starr's Email Update to Employees - June 8, 2020

CEO Update

Dear All, 

It was two weeks ago today that George Floyd was killed by Mpls Police. We watched on film the agonizing minutes preceding his death, where the police officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes, and he made no effort to accommodate Floyd’s pleas for breath and life. As one watched the video, It was hard to refute that it happened. Hard to deny that there could be any civil rationale that would make that horrific treatment of Floyd anything less than murder.  We will wait for a jury to decide whether the murder charges filed against the officers and his colleagues are true.  I only wish that George Floyd would have had the same chance for his side of the story to be told, for justice, for truth.  

Since that Monday two weeks ago, since the world saw that irrefutable video, we’ve seen protestors from all 50 states from all populations march against this particular violence and the systemic racism that plagues this country. There is an incredible cry from across the United States for change.   It’s a tipping point. Until people saw that irrefutable video of the violent killing of George Floyd, many had not grasped the size and scope of fear and brutality their black counterparts have lived under.  It is an awakening and a moment for change. We don’t often get these moments, and we need to capitalize.  

What is the appropriate Orchard Place response?  In addition to continuing trauma practices, OP will form a Diversity Committee to help us understand the issues, search for an organizational response, and implement systems that are inclusive and nonviolent.  We use committee work within our organization to develop and implement lasting systemic change. We want change that will last and cross all areas of the agency, including programs, HR practices, community relationships, etc. The three branch operations VPs will be working on chartering and organizing this committee.  If you are interested in this work to further improve our culture, please let your supervisor or VP know.  Systems change work is not easy work, but it is incredibly rewarding.

We also commit to our continued work within our community to advance peace and justice.  For many years OP has worked to educate our community partners and policymakers about trauma and the consequences of that trauma if not addressed. Several years ago, the TIC conference hosted Dr. Marva Lewis from the Tulane University Social Work Department. She spoke at a special session about the meaning of historical trauma and how the black Americans have been impacted by hundreds of years of poverty and bigotry.  Dr. Lewis’s presentation at that conference was one of the first exposures that many at the conference had to the term “historical trauma,” and an overview of how this happened and has been perpetuated over the years. It was powerful.  

At OP, we have many employees who serve on workgroups and advocacy groups, which combat violence and promote mental health across children and adolescents. I am honored to serve on the “Vision Council,” a statewide group of professionals and leaders from DHS, IDPH, Juvenile Justice, and the children’s provider community. I serve on that Council. We are working toward the successful implementation of the new Families First Act. One of our goals is to address disparity within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems as well as other methods such as education that are also key to a child’s success. These are huge tasks, but we’ve made progress in the first year in building a consensus that there is disparity, and we can change it.  

What can we do right now? Listen for understanding. Check out our own biases and barriers to working for change in this space. Keep providing excellent services raising the awareness of our clients and families of how trauma has impacted them. We can empower people to speak their truth and be resilient.

We have a great group of people to work on this much-needed conversation and change. Our mission says that every child deserves a strong future regardless of their mental health challenges and regardless of the color of their skin.  

Sanctuary on! Anne