Lorena Aceves, Ph.D., Research Scientist at Child Trends; Former SRCD Postdoctoral Fellow at the Office of Head Start, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
We asked scholars to describe some of the following questions: What drew you to do work on Latinx youth and families, or another topic that is important to you now? Who was an important mentor to you in this work, or was there a particularly influential study in the field or in a related field?
In graduate school, I worked on various research studies on the topic, and along the way I learned the importance of institutional structures in the shaping of Latinx youth’s educational experiences. This helped me narrow down the ways by which I could make a difference for Latinx students. Through my studies, I started gaining an interest in approaching this issue by combining research, policy, and practice to make this difference. As a result of my desire for an interdisciplinary approach, I sought out career opportunities outside of the academy. I was recently an SRCD Federal Policy Postdoctoral Fellow which gave an in-depth opportunity to understand how policy works at the federal level. I am currently transitioning to Child Trends where I will continue using this interdisciplinary approach to improve Latinx’s youth’s educational experiences. Given that I have taken this unique method to my work, I am one of the few Latinx scholars addressing these issues in a non-academic space. As a result, another important aspect of my career is mentoring other scholars interested in exploring non-academic careers and/or policy orientated work.
We invited scholars to describe a recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.
I am super excited that our Social Policy Report titled “Transforming Policy Standards to Promote Equity and Developmental Success Among Latinx Children and Youth” is out and publicly available (you access it here). I was particularly excited to publish this piece because of its accessibility to any audience. My co-authors and I had the goal of making this a piece from which anyone could learn from. Our social policy paper highlights critical factors that influence the ways we all think about the developmental experiences of Latinx children and youth. Mostly importantly, it pushes us to consider how the standards of success should expand beyond the singular focus on educational attainment (e.g., academic performance, graduation rates) to include supporting developmental competencies (i.e., navigation of social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral tasks) and promotive settings (e.g., physical and psychological safety, opportunities to belong, positive social norms), and long-term adjustment (e.g., physical/mental health, social mobility, debt/homeownership). The paper also highlights the institutional shifts that need to occur to ensure the developmental success of Latinx children and youth. Finally, we were able to provide tangible and actionable recommendations that can be applied by anyone who works with Latinx children and youth to promote positive development. Please read and share!
Reflections on Latinx Caucus Experiences
Finally, we asked about experiences with the SRCD Latinx Caucus: Why is the caucus important and/or your views on the role of the Latinx Caucus vis-à-vis SRCD, research on child development, policy/practice.
The Latinx Caucus has been a great space for me to feel empowered and to help empower my fellow Latinx scholars. The caucus is one of the major reasons I feel at home with SRCD as whole. As a group, the caucus has done an amazing job in ensuring that Latinx voices, research, and experiences are all represented throughout all of SRCD via Child Evidence briefs, having caucus folks represented across SRCD leadership and committees, and engaging us in membership through caucus events. If you are not a part of or not actively involved, I encourage you to get involved. I have found this group to be such a wonderful space to engage with others who share, and passionately pursue, the goal of improving the lives of Latinx children, youth, and families. You should even consider a leadership role when the time comes, my experience was rewarding and I’m sure yours will be too!