12/21/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou: Advancing Equity and Racial Justice

Monday, December 21, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

It has been a year full of uncertainty, fear and pain, division, and turmoil, and I am deeply proud of what IDHS staff have done to keep our communities and those we care for safe and supported. The disparate impact of COVID-19 and recent police violence, including the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, have put spotlights on systemic and structural racism. IDHS has one of the most diverse workforces in the state and serve an even more diverse community base; and so, we must make greater efforts to learn from and listen to each other.

Advancing equity and racial justice is a key goal for our administration, and we continue to take steps toward making that a reality. In this regard, I want to reintroduce you to the work of the Office of Strategy, Equity, and Transformation (OSET). The charge of OSET is to work with IDHS staff and stakeholders to ensure that IDHS has and utilizes an equity lens and strategy as it relates to internal planning, operations, access to services, processes, and partners in ways that are strategic, innovative, and iterative. OSET works to assist IDHS to collectively and collaboratively pursue equity in service engagement, service support, and service delivery for the people of Illinois. This office is being led by OSET Director Caronina Grimble.

OSET's work includes building and imparting an understanding of equity and racial justice in how we operate, engage our colleagues, and serve our communities. We want IDHS to become an anti-racist organization that pursues equity and racial justice with intention, vigor, and tenacity. We have created a Plan for Equity, Racial Justice, Diversity, and Inclusion, with the aim to address the entrenched and accumulated inequities experienced by marginalized, disenfranchised, and underrepresented communities by supporting a culture of equity and creating pathways to organizational transformation. You will learn more about the team behind this work in the new year.

We are tackling the challenges of cultivating an agency culture that supports all staff, and of creating a human services system that enables all to thrive regardless of race, zip code, and ability; we invite you to join us. There will be opportunities for learning, engagement, and for reconstructing long-time processes that affect our ability to diversify our staff, community partners, and vendors. We will learn how to operate using an equity lens for our internal processes, external partnerships, and service to communities.

Carrying out this work will involve all levels of IDHS staff, and will address institutionalized inequities, operationalize equity and racial justice, and create a culture of inclusivity for all, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or ability. Stay tuned for more information as we embark on this journey.

We have faced many challenges and continue to do so in the face of a surge of COVID-19 infections. I know that, together, we can also confront inequities and create a human services system that helps all to thrive.

Thank you for all that you do.



Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS