Council for Children’s Rights works to affirm rights for children daily through our individual services, research, and policy work. We are heartbroken and grieve over the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the countless others before them. These tragedies continue to make headlines because, for too long, we have allowed racism to thrive in our systems with the absence of adequate and equitable structural change.

Council for Children’s Rights works on behalf of our child clients as well as all children in our community to move toward equity and justice. We will continue our efforts to shift systems to better serve our children and we stand in solidarity with our Black community against racial injustice.

The racial and ethnic disparities that exist for our children have persisted for generations and undergird systemic racism. Systemic racism refers to policies, practices, norms, and cultural representations that perpetuate inequity, produce disparities, and foster violence against people of color. In Mecklenburg County, these racial and ethnic disparities exist and have persisted for generations across multiple systems:

In the child welfare system, compared to White children, children of color are 7x more likely to have a report screened in, 8x more likely to be represented in a substantiated investigation, 6x more likely to enter custody, and 4x more likely to remain in custody after 365 days.

In juvenile justice, Black children are represented in 79% of Mecklenburg complaints despite accounting for 34% of our youth population. Research shows disparities in our court system are a reflection of differential treatment, not differential behavior.

In our education system, we see the opportunity gap persists when comparing academic proficiency. Only 48% of our Black third graders in CMS read on grade level and 58% perform math on grade level compared to 82% and 88% of our White student performing on grade level, respectively.

Even our youngest children in CMS experience disparities in pre-kindergarten to second grade suspensions with Black students receiving 8x the number of suspensions compared to their White counterparts.

When considering school discipline, 70% of suspensions were issued to Black children despite only accounting for 38% of CMS’ population. This disparity is created and exacerbated by school safety and disciplinary policies that thrust Black youth into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Learn more about these disparities, the conditions that have created and sustained them, and local opportunities for action in the 2020 State of Our Children Report

Authors

Jaimelee Behrendt-Mihalski, MA
Policy Advocate

Jaimelee Behrendt-Mihalski is the Policy Advocate at Council for Children’s Rights. A graduate of DePaul University with a B.A. in community psychology, she moved to Charlotte in 2013 where she completed a M.A. in community psychology and certificate in nonprofit management at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is expected to complete her Ph.D. in health psychology/community psychology in December 2020.

She is drawn to this work because she sees herself and her childhood friends represented in the children served by the Council. A child of an incarcerated parent who attended an underfunded public school, she grew up alongside children who were in foster care, needed special education and mental health services, caught in the middle of custody battles, or were in youth detention facilities. Because of her background and because she was “fortunate enough to have supports and — as a white woman — a lot of unseen privilege” she feels it is her imperative to use her talents and knowledge to shine a light on injustice in systems that impact children.

Jaimelee lives in Charlotte with husband Alex and their dog Behr. 

Camara Wooten
Junior Policy Advocate

Camara Wooten is a Junior Policy Advocate at Council for Children’s Rights. She recently graduated from Duke University with a B.A. in Public Policy Studies and minors in Chemistry and Global Health. Camara is from Newark, NJ and currently lives in Research Triangle Park.

Camara started her affiliation with Council as a Research and Policy intern during the summer of 2019. She was intrigued by Council’s mission to advocate for children of all backgrounds and to help amplify their voices via representation in courtrooms and in research. Camara resonates with the many children Council advocates for since she is Black American and Latina, has experienced what it is like to have an incarcerated parent, and attended schools that lacked necessary resources. However, those experiences made her who she is today, which is resilient and persistent. Since Camara treasures representation and its positive effects on communities, she hopes to take what she learns from her experience at Council to initiate community development and learning centers in undervalued and underappreciated communities of color.

Camara aspires to become a physician; however, she plans to take a few gap years prior to medical school. In the meantime, she will be working as a Public Health Analyst at RTI International beginning this July.

Camara loves watching documentaries and only the ‘greatest’ television shows (e.g. The Wire, Sopranos, and Grey’s Anatomy), weightlifting, running (on the treadmill–not outside), and reading autobiographies.

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