As children across Virginia head back to school, many families are feeling uncertain. Lawmakers have taken steps to expand access to child care, to increase food benefits and offer free school meals and to provide child tax credits. These supports are necessary and appreciated. At the same time, there are challenges that will make this year’s back to school transition difficult such as lack of paid leave, long waiting lists to enroll in child care programs and costly back to school purchases.
We believe that lawmakers will help families and we know they have the ability to provide help. Right now Congress is considering the Build Back Better recovery plan that includes 12 weeks of paid family leave, additional funding for child care, extensions of the monthly child allowance and more. This is the opportunity to pass a comprehensive package to provide families and caregivers with the support you need. With so many things happening in the world at once, we need to bring the focus back to children and families. We need you to share your story.
2. submit your name and we’ll follow up to interview you and record a story.
We will connect with you to approve your story before it shared and let you know more about where and how it can be shared. We would like to collect as many stories as possible in the first two weeks of children going back to school. We appreciate your patience in reviewing your story and getting back to you.
Sutisha Simluang (pictured above) is a first-generation college graduate, community leader, and Thai immigrant. While a native of Thailand, Sutisha was raised in Arlington, Va. after entering the United States to live with her father at the age of 12. In this blog post, she shares with Voices her own experiences growing up as an immigrant child in Virginia and as an Asian American, as well as those of her family.
In 2005, Sutisha Simluang’s father came to work in America on a work visa with the hopes of doing agriculture work. But instead, he became a victim of human trafficking. The employers he came to work for took all of his documentation and forced him along with others to work on their farm with no pay. Fortunately, he was able to escape and get connected to refugee and human trafficking resources that assisted him with getting back on his feet.
Today, Sutisha often fears for the safety of her family due to police violence and negative interactions involving racial profiling. When Asian hate crimes were exacerbated due to COVID-19, she felt she had no choice but to reveal new truths to her family. She realized that shielding them from an understanding of America’s racial landscape and systemic issues would not help her, her family, or other immigrants and children of color facing similar experiences. Because of these experiences, Sutisha pursued a career in civic engagement and change. Sutisha now works as a coordinator at the Virginia Civic Engagement Table (VCET), which connects non-profit organizations working to advance equality and justice and those that strive to engage underrepresented communities in the democratic process.
Our Racial Truth & Reconciliation initiative serves to empower the voices of marginalized communities, such as immigrant families and Asian American youth — voices like Sutisha’s. Supporting resolutions like Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis and continuing to use both an equity and trauma lens in our advocacy and policy work is vital to addressing systemic oppressions and inequality which affect children of color as they’re growing up.
A great first step is to support the recruitment, hiring, and retention of clinicians of color who are vital to the mental health success of children of color, especially those who have experienced racial and generational trauma in their lives.
Several of the barriers that Sutisha and her family identified during our discussion highlights the need for advocacy and policy changes. In particular, we have identified areas in our own policy priorities at Voices where we can be stronger advocates to improve language access and reduce barriers, addressing the importance of decriminalizing racial bias, increasing culturally relevant and community-based resources and services, and bridging the gap to create culturally competent and diverse workforces.
As champions for children, it’s our job to listen, engage, and uplift voices of our communities. You’ll continue to see more stories like Sutisha’s where we explore the lived experiences of Virginia’s children and move to take action to build healthier children, youth, and families.
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Our friends at the Virginia Family Network, a program of NAMI Virginia, are facilitating a great opportunity for youth in the Richmond area who have a mental health condition, or whose parent or sibling has a mental health condition. Join other youth ages 12-18 in similar situations to share your experiences (confidentially within the group) through digital storytelling. It’s free and there’s pizza! Contact Amanda Long at NAMI Virginia for more info: firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-285-8264 ext. 211.
WHEN: Every Monday from 5pm – 7pm, starting April 15th, 2013 – ending May 20th, Please note that the group is now meeting on Mondays, not Wednesdays!
WHERE: Interstate Office Park, 2104 West Laburnum St., Richmond, VA 23227
WHO: Teens, Ages 12 – 18, who personally have a mental health condition or have a parent or sibling with a mental health condition
WHAT: Six weeks youth group
Do you have a parent or sibling with a mental health condition or have you yourself experienced mental health challenges?
Would you like to meet and talk with other teens who are going through what you are going through?
Using digital media, such as pictures, music, and video, participants will have the opportunity to share their experiences with their peers, and in the end, each participant will walk away with their own digital story!
Pizza and refreshments will be served. Cost of Group – Free!