A Strengths-Based Look at the State of the Black Child

“Being labeled ‘at risk’ is like being voted least likely to succeed. For where there is no faith in your future success, there is no real effort to prepare you for it,” says Carol Brunson Day, one of the many experts to contribute commentary to the National Black Child Development Institute’s (NBCDI) latest publication, Being Black Is Not a Risk Factor: A Strengths-Based Look at the State of the Black Child.

All too often, black children are defined by the risks associated with their skin color.

While the challenges of black children and black families are real, NBCDI seeks to change the narrative of the limitations and deficits of black children and instead look at the strengths, opportunities and resilience that black children and their families possess. The report includes essays that focus on utilizing strengths to improve outcomes for black children, highlights examples of black children succeeding, and includes data that provides information on how black children and families are doing.

From early childhood to young adulthood, Being Black is Not a Risk Factor identifies the ways that black children and youth benefit from the strengths and resilience of their families and communities and offers a starting point for a national conversation on how black children can be supported to achieve their very best in a culture that has placed many impediments in front of them.

Data can tell many stories. The narrative we don’t often hear, but data support, is that black children are more likely to be enrolled in preschool than white children (75 percent of black 4-year-olds, compared to 69 percent of white 4-year-olds); more than 3 in 4 young black children have at least one working parent; and 79 percent of young black children are read to by a family member regularly.  

We must not define children by the risk factors associated with their skin color. All children deserve the means to keep themselves healthy, to be provided with stable environments, and to have access to high-quality education to achieve their life’s potential.  The challenges of black children are critical to understand because they convey the urgency of the need for policymakers and communities to help create a new future for children of color. But that future should be built on children’s strengths and communities’ successes, not disparities. After all, being black is not a risk factor.  

CLASP is pleased to have contributed data analysis to this publication.