Father reading book to child. Photo: Nappy Photos

The month of November is Black Babies Awareness Month, a campaign focused on the health and wellness of Black families, infants, and toddlers.  

This new campaign is led by the Equity Research Action Coalition at UNC-Chapel-Hill, and co-developed with child development experts from the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and POINTS of ACCESS, LLC. as part of its first-ever National Black Child Agenda.

“When you think about it, our children exist in a duality of ‘the land of opportunity,’ and ‘the home of racism and debilitating inequities,'” said NBCDI CEO and President Dr. Leah Austin. “This ground-breaking agenda reflects a post-2020 America, and serves as a launchpad for empowering advocates and communities everywhere to better serve the needs of the 21st century Black child,”

Equity Research Action Coalition Founder Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka. Photo: Elizabeth Spisich

The agenda calls for 10 actions steps to dismantle structural racism and systemic inequities that have negative effects on Black children’s school and life success.

  1. Maintain child tax credits and income supports
  2. Address racial disparities in wages and career advancement opportunities
  3. Invest in Black-owned and Black-led businesses, organizations and institutions
  4. Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act
  5. Expand health insurance
  6. Expand universal access to early care and education
  7. Address harsh discipline practices
  8. Ensure equity in early intervention and special education
  9. Ensure culturally responsive curriculum and practices through workforce development and training
  10. Pass reparations

“During the last 15 months of the pandemic over 120,000 children lost a parent or…primary caretaker. Children of color were over 40 percent in some states,” said

Dr. Renée Boyton-Jarrett, pediatrician and founder of the Vital Village Community Network. “We have to appreciate the profound and disparate loss, grief, and the toll in our communities around loss of jobs, housing, access to basic needs. We need to listen, pay attention, and demand effective policies that are supporting grief, trauma, mental health, and material needs.”

State of Babies in Texas

The March of Dimes gave Harris County an “F” for premature births and Infant mortality. In Texas, the preterm birth rate among Black women is 41% higher than the rate among all other women.

According to a report from the State of Babies Yearbook:

  • Texas is home to 1,160,963 babies, representing 4.0 percent of the state’s population.
  • As many as 45.6 percent live in households with incomes less than twice the federal poverty line (in 2019, about $51,500 a year for a family of four)
  • 11.9% of babies in Texas are Non-Hispanic Black
  • 28.9% of infants and toddlers in poverty are Non-Hispanic Black

What’s next?

“Everyone has a role to play in improving the lives of our Black babies. I would encourage every person to take a few minutes each day to examine what they can do to protect, promote, and preserve the health, wealth, and wellbeing of Black babies and their families. For example, they can call on their local officials to pass policies that provide access to affordable universal child care, expansion of health insurance through Medicaid, paid family leave, and maintain child care tax credits and other income supports,” said Equity Research Action Coalition Founder Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka.

“They can call on them to provide targeted funding and set aside dollars to Black-owned and led organizations, businesses, and most importantly, child care providers. Finally, they can ask their representatives to look at what some states and local governments are doing to study and pass reparations. It is critical that national, state, and local governments repair Black families and communities that have been affected by policies that caused undue harm and neglect.”

To read the full report and learn more about Black Babies Awareness Month, visit the Equity Research Action Coalition‘s website.

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...