Representation is important when looking at the impact it has on the lives of children as they grow. If there is a lack of representation, how will that affect the lives of these young children?
Lack of Racial and Cultural Representation Effects Children for Life
Identity Development Issues
As children grow and develop their identity is shaped by observing those around them. When children do not see people around them with whom they share similarities such as religion, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and culture, they are more likely to have a harder time developing their sense of identity.
Not seeing people that reflect their own identities can make children feel like they do not fit within their immediate society. If they belong to an underrepresented group, they might feel as though they stand out negatively. Their self-esteem faces serious harm as they may not have a strong sense of identity or an exemplary role model to follow.
Lack of representation can also lead to the reinforcement of stereotypes, especially negative ones, towards racial or cultural groups. Not seeing a positive representation of minority groups may lead children to believe that the negative stereotypes of these groups are accurate. This affects how children view people that whom they do and do not identify. Therefore children deserve to be exposed to accurate and positive representation of the other side of these stereotypes.
Only seeing negative stereotypes or a lack of representation in racial or cultural groups makes children believe that all members of these groups have to follow this path. This is especially detrimental to a child’s life when they are a member of a group commonly shown in a negative light. The child can form unrealistic expectations that they have to follow a predetermined path or that they can never rise above the negativity that society puts on them. By creating these unrealistic expectations, society is limiting what children believe is possible for their lives, when in reality they are capable of growing into whatever they want to be.
Feelings of Oppression
The summation of identity development issues, poor self-esteem, negative stereotyping, and unrealistic expectations ultimately is detrimental to children. Representation matters in the lives of young children. When children are developing their sense of self and do not have diverse representation around them to look up to they may feel invisible like they do not matter, or like they need to blend in to protect themselves. When this occurs, children lose their voice and this is when they need an adult figure to understand and advocate for them.
The Importance of Diversity in CASA
Helping a Child Feel Understood
Children going through the court system due to abuse and neglect may lack a positive role model or figure that they both identify with and see themselves reflected in. For this reason, diversity in the CASA program is so important. Having an advocate that looks like them or has shared experiences can create a bond and form trust and can provide inspiration, even during tough times, such as being a Child in Need of Services.
Providing a Sense of Community and Support
Through diverse representation within the CASA program, children may experience a sense of community, support, and belonging. Seeing a CASA that has a diverse background advocating for their child in the courtroom provides an example of a strong and capable individual having a positive impact on their life.
Children need to have a person they identify with in their lives. That’s why representation matters at CASA! Consider joining today to help a child feel understood and supported.
Written by: Esther Rostagno