The staff and board of California WIC Association are catalyzed by the recent national activism efforts to further address systemic racism and implicit bias in all its forms. This is a good time to report to you, our members, on our ongoing commitment to address these issues, suggest changes our organization can make, and ask for input.
In the coming year and beyond we look forward to continuing to be leaders with you, in ensuring WIC is an inclusive program for staff and participants and the hallmark of a welcoming place for all people especially Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).
Below are summaries of related CWA initiatives and strategies.
Ask the Community First Task Force
The goal of creating the task force was to research, reflect, and articulate community-based action items that ensure all local California WIC providers – as well as the state agency — are maximizing the participation of Black women and families by encouraging culturally sensitive engagement via targeted outreach and marketing efforts, a carefully planned internal discernment and problem-solving process, and staff training and consciousness-raising.
CWA established a volunteer statewide task force of thirteen local WIC and MCAH staff. During 2015 the members met several times with a consultant and developed an action plan that included a survey of staff and participants, a report on the findings and regional trainings for local WIC agencies, provided by task force members. The report and findings were shared on the CWA website, as well as with communities nationwide via CWA’s Flash newsletter and WIC Watch magazine. All materials can be found here.
At the spring 2019 conference, members of the task force were invited to meet and discuss interest in reestablishing the task force to address more opportunities for BIPOC staff and participants.
- We will continue to work to address racism and promote equity for BIPOC through staff and participant engagement in current strategies, and to promote other strategies as they roll out .
Inclusion of Men and Dads in WIC
In 2015 volunteers were also solicited from across the state for a task force to address barriers and strategies for inclusion of men and dads, for WIC staffing and participation. This task force and Ask the Community First members decided to work as one task force. A toolkit was developed, and regional trainings addressed inclusion of men and dads. A plenary presentation at the annual spring conference included speakers from the task force, representatives from Texas WIC, and the National WIC Association. The toolkit was shared on CWA’s website, and via CWA’s Flash newsletter and WIC Watch magazine. All materials can be found here.
- We will continue to support work that promotes equity and inclusion of men and dads, in particular men of color.
- Continue to provide educational opportunities via conferences and webinars.
- Partner with state and national men and dads’ organizations.
CWA ORGANIZATION & MANAGEMENT
CWA Staffing and Operations
CWA seeks a diverse workforce to reflect the WIC community we serve. For business and operations, we have supported black and minority-owned businesses since our incorporation.
- CWA will continue to advertise widely for open positions in order to have diverse applicants and staff, including seeking out organizations/networks that reach applicants who are BIPOC.
- CWA will provide opportunities for anti-racism and implicit bias education/training to staff.
- CWA will continue to seek out and engage businesses owned by BIPOC.
- CWA welcomes the opportunity to partner with organizations working to protect and elevate BIPOC, such as but not limited to Black Lives Matter, NAACP, ACLU and/or related organizations.
CWA Board Membership
The CWA board is made up of an executive board, regional representatives, two caucuses representing small agencies and Native Americans, a paraprofessional representative, and members-at-large, all with voting privileges. Most members of the board are WIC local agency directors, but that is not required.
At the Board Retreat in September 2019, the idea of diversifying the board by adding caucuses and/or an advisory board was discussed. The caucuses would support additional populations of staff and participants, and the advisory board would include outside organizations. It was decided that further discussion was needed.
- Revisit and prioritize the topic of board diversification, survey local WIC agency staff, act on the recommendations of the members.
CWA has produced the bi-weekly Flash newsletter and bi-annual WIC Watch magazine with state and national readership since the late 1990’s. Since that time social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been added. A staff position is dedicated to communications. News stories, reports, advocacy, resources, and other materials related to ending racism and implicit bias and improving equity have been regularly posted and shared.
- CWA’s communication channels will continue to speak out against racism and implicit bias and advocate for equity as an urgent priority.
- CWA remains committed to our communications investment focused on threats to immigrant populations.
Annual Conferences and Trainings
CWA conferences and trainings have prioritized equity as one of the major topic areas for presentations, either as a stand-alone topic or incorporated into workshops addressing breastfeeding, nutrition, wellness, or management.
- In addition to prioritizing equity, topics and speakers addressing anti-racism work and implicit bias will be included.
- CWA will endeavor to provide other learning opportunities via webinars and trainings during the year, available internally for CA WIC staff or offered more widely and marketed through the Flash for national engagement.
CWA’s advocacy efforts, that include legislative and administrative strategies, at the state and national levels, have always focused on addressing the needs of low-income mothers and families. Early advocacy in 2008 and ongoing efforts have focused on breastfeeding, initially addressing inequity and racism in hospital breastfeeding policies and support. Strategies have included sponsorship of bills, including two landmark bills on hospital breastfeeding policies. Those efforts have since extended to the continuum of breastfeeding support in outpatient care settings and the workplace. Advocating for health care access, paid family leave and food access, among other issues, have always been central to CWA’s advocacy agenda. These efforts have been expanding to address a range of social determinants of health.
- Annual advocacy efforts will, through an equity lens, work to stop racism and implicit bias.
- CWA has expanded our advocacy efforts to include a wider range of social determinants of health including maternal mortality, housing, access to safe water, and criminal justice – all issues that can provide other opportunities for anti-racist efforts.
- Since 2017 CWA has been an active member of the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition and intends to remain an active partner.
WORK FORCE OPPORTUNITIES
WIC Leadership Academy
All state and local agency staff have been invited to participate in an annual leadership training since 2004 through programs offered by CWA in some years and in other years by CDPH WIC. Application information is provided directly to all WIC local agency Directors to be shared with staff and posted in the CWA Flash, which is received by many staff. No applicants are turned away and diverse membership is welcomed.
- CWA will work closely with local agency directors and state staff to ensure staff are encouraged and supported to apply.
- CWA will keep information on race and ethnicity data regarding participants to ensure inclusivity and inform future efforts.
- The Leadership Academy curriculum and speakers will address racism, implicit bias, and equity in the workplace.
CA Nutrition Corps Scholarships (CNC)
Scholarships have been available since 2003 to WIC employees completing their undergraduate or graduate degree in nutrition, public health or business, or a Dietetic Internship to become a Registered Dietitian. Application information is provided to all WIC local agency Directors to be shared with staff and is also announced in the CWA Flash, which is received by many staff. The scholarship application specifies that the goal of the scholarships are to improve the diversity of the public health nutrition workforce. Scholarship information is here.
- CWA will work more closely with local agency directors to ensure staff receive the scholarship information and are encouraged to apply for the scholarship.
- CWA will keep information on race and ethnicity of participants to ensure inclusivity and to inform future efforts.
Mentoring for WIC Directors
CWA reaches out to new WIC Directors to ensure they have a mentor WIC Director as a resource during at least the first three years, as they learn how to run a highly regulated program, manage staff and provide services that are effective in achieving WIC’s outcomes. Mentors and mentees are paired with like agencies, given information on how to establish their relationship, and provided opportunities to network in regional meetings, via calls, or to participate via listservs if there is distance between the programs. Annually at the state conference all mentors and mentees are brought together for an informal meeting and networking. CWA works with state staff to develop new training materials for WIC directors and provides information on their agency membership in CWA.
- CWA will solicit feedback from current and past mentors-mentee pairs regarding gaps in needs or ideas for improvements.
- As an adjunct to the Leadership Academy, as not all new WIC Directors join the Leadership Academy, CWA could provide speakers and learning opportunities that address leadership skills related to implicit bias and racial justice.
Work Force Development
In 2014 CWA conducted a salary survey of WIC positions, shared the findings with the state and local agencies, and has since made the findings available for any interested agency and state staff. In 2019, working with the state Career Coordinator, a workforce survey was developed, but not released, focusing on job responsibilities and innovative ways to use staff with health care.
- CWA will work towards partnering with CDPH/WIC on releasing a workforce survey, ensuring it is designed to identify racism and implicit bias in hiring and staffing.
- Webinars and trainings to be provided for state staff and local agency directors and supervisors to address racism and implicit bias in hiring practices, and management strategies to ensure equitable and fair opportunities are provided to potential and current staff.
- Caucuses described for the CWA board (above) could be tapped to inform the state and local agencies of the needs of employees.
CWA will engage regularly with state and national organizations that encourage diverse public health nutrition and breastfeeding para- and professionals such as Diversity in Dietetics, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, Latinos and Hispanics in Dietetics and Nutrition, National Organization of Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition and others.