by Fawn Pattison
Few people are as passionate about the power of data as Whitney Tucker. Whitney is the dynamic Research Director at NC Child, and we’re featuring her as part of our “Be the Voice” series that lifts up the voices of child advocates from across the state. A short excerpt from our interview with Whitney is below. For a big dose of data (and hope), check out this deep dive audio interview with Whitney about her recent report, “The Child Welfare Impact of the Opioid Epidemic,” from our friends at NC Policy Watch.
NCC: How did you become a child advocate?
WT: I was born in Winnsboro South Carolina, and moved at a pretty early age to Elgin South Carolina. Both very rural, but different demographically, both pretty poor, and I think that really gave me a good perspective on the kinds of challenges that kids face. In South Carolina the types of opportunities that are presented to kids of different races are very different. I went to college at Vanderbilt, and that experience, the people I met there, versus the way that I had grown up, really gave me a lot of perspective on what kids are afforded early in life, and how that changes their trajectories.
WT: We’re seeing that a stronger economy is producing better outcomes for kids, but that economic recovery hasn’t made its way to all the areas of concentrated poverty across the state. 13% of all kids in North Carolina live in very high-poverty areas, and that number is on the increase. There is something being missed in trickle-down economic recovery. It’s not trickling down to every part of the state.
More children that are black and brown are living in areas of concentrated poverty. That’s something that does require a differential response, and does need to be noted all on its own as a challenge. It’s very difficult to measure something as amorphous as racism itself, but I think that is the biggest problem that’s affecting kids of color, and by extension it’s arguably the biggest problem that’s facing all kids, because kids of color are so reflective of population of the entire state at this point, and where it’s headed. Those disparities have an impact on the way that white kids grow up as well, and how they interact with the world as a result of their upbringing here in North Carolina.
NCC: What do you feel hopeful about?
WT: I feel hopeful about civic engagement in the political system. I feel hopeful because people are always going to care about kids, but in North Carolina, people also care about advocacy.