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Member Highlight: Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being

Established by Deaconess Foundation, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being is a community action tank. Our mission is to build power to advance child well-being in the St. Louis region by strengthening alliances for child-friendly public policy, increasing citizen contact with policy makers, positioning youth and organizers to move systems and engaging faith communities in child advocacy.

Deaconess Center on average hosts more than 15,000 child advocates, civic leaders and community organizers per year in more than 600 gatherings focused on children’s policy. Meeting space is granted at no cost to groups and convenings focused on shifting public policy for children aligned with Deaconess’ vision and values.

The 21,000-square-foot facility house offices for Deaconess Foundation and long-term missional partners, Vision for Children at Risk and Unleashing Potential. Diverse, flexible meeting rooms, classrooms and community spaces can host up to 150 people in the largest setting.

What is one interesting fact about your space?

Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being is located at 1000 North Vandeventer, St. Louis, MO 63113. Due north of the St. Louis City Family Courts and Juvenile Justice Center, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being is situated as a physical critique of the ways the region has chosen to engage challenges related to children and youth. The Center encourages collaborative, systems-focused civic engagement for youth flourishing over isolated, program-oriented interventions or punitive approaches. Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being is a critical element of movement infrastructure for child well-being and racial equity for St. Louis.

Erected on a previously vacant lot, the building project significantly enhances community development. Deaconess Center aligns with the North Central Plan, a neighborhood-driven development initiative, and is planted within in the St. Louis Promise Zone, Grand Center Arts District and historic Covenant Blu Grand Center neighborhood.

What are your favorite resources that you would recommend to others?

Deaconess Center is clear that racial equity and public policy change are the most sustainable approaches to advance child well-being in the St. Louis region. Neither is possible without power. Recognizing the privilege of philanthropy and power dynamics, it is imperative for Deaconess Center to reflect with partners and in community to assess how well Deaconess builds, wields and shares power. Using the Power Moves Assessment toolkit, a favorite resource from our partners at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), Deaconess Center received feedback and recommendations on how to further leverage resources and improve practices in pursuit of the equity and justice.

Another resource that is valuable to Deaconess Center on our journey to equity is Ferguson Commission Report – Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity. There, racial equity is presented as a framework that promotes actions designed to address historic burdens and present-day barriers to equal opportunities through the elimination of systemic racially discriminatory policies and practices. Honoring the necessity of racial equity for the sustainability of our work, the Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being Board of Directors commits to policies, practices and procedures of governance which reflect our desired outcomes. These commitments include, but or not limited to:

• Diversity – Seeking a board demographic composition aligned with the community of children we serve
• Inclusion – Listening to and prioritizing the perspectives of indigenous and impacted people when making decisions; and
• Equity – Monitoring organization performance with goals for equitable outcomes, meaningful data disaggregated by race and metrics for success in historically under-represented.

From theory to practice: Deaconess Center’s Board of Directors was expanded to include neighborhood residents (Diversity and Inclusion) and the Center’s operational practice prioritizes Black-owned vendors and contractors (Equity).

Center Name: Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being/Deaconess Foundation

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Center Website: https://deaconesscenter.org/

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