In Other Words: Paola Maranan
A conversation with the Executive Director of the Children's Alliance
April 17, 2018
This article was first published in Seattle Foundation's Heart & Science magazine, Volume 4.
As executive director of the Children’s Alliance,
Paola Maranan leads an organization that
advocates for better public policies and
practices that improve the lives of Washington’s
children. Maranan, who grew up in Seattle, is a
graduate of Harvard University and worked on
voting rights in Montgomery, Alabama, prior to
her role at the Children's Alliance for the past 20
years. The nonprofit’s policy priorities include
improving early education and health care
access, and decreasing hunger for children - always through a lens of racial and ethnic equity.
Who or what inspires you?
I had not really been exposed to extreme poverty
growing up here. I went to a neighborhood [in
Alabama] that was a community of tar paper
shacks. There was a young African American boy
on the porch, probably 3 or 4, and I just spark to
little kids, so I was trying to talk to him. And there
was no spark, there was no joy. The challenge of
his circumstances were written all over his face
and it was heartbreaking. And I juxtaposed that
against my own family of immigrant parents,
who always said, ‘You can be anything you
want.’ He became this symbol of all the racial
discrimination and oppression and challenges that
I was seeing that stood in such stark contrast to
what my parents taught me about possibility and
opportunity. I feel as though my life’s work has
been about reconciling the two.
Why is it challenging to enact policies that truly address kids’
As a culture, we are really sentimental about children, and yet we do such a
terrible job around fulfilling that sentiment. We pay a lot of lip service about
wanting kids to succeed and kids being our future, but if you examine our
public policies and investments, they do not bear out what we say. The work
ahead - for all of us in our respective roles - is to deconstruct the systems
that perpetuate racism and that create a big gap between where kids are and
the opportunities they should have. That’s why we center racial equity in our
Why is early learning support so important and a key focus of
the Children’s Alliance?
We think of early learning broadly as not just what happens in formal settings,
but as the experiences of young children and families.
Early learning is the way we try to support families and young children by
giving those children the best boost possible as they prepare to enter school,
and as school prepares them for life. It’s a prime period of growth for children
in brain development and social-emotional growth. So much of what kids call
on later is developed in the early years. It’s such a critical time for us to think
broadly about what it means to support young children and to make sure that
support is there for all kids.
What is a key issue for you in improving the health of kids
We were instrumental in the work to make sure every child in Washington
state has access to health care and we are committed to protecting this
coverage against emerging threats. It’s critically important to make sure kids have access to preventative care, and the health care they need. What
we’re looking at now is the quality of that health care. And really looking at
what drives racial inequities, and what drives the unequal access to care and the gaps we see in kids’ health outcomes.
What is the next priority or greatest challenge for you?
If we don’t address childhood poverty and we don’t recognize the intersection
between poverty, race and opportunity, we will never get where we want to go
as a state; we’ll never secure opportunity for Washington’s children
Heart & Science Magazine
Read Heat & Science magazine Vol. 4 for more on how philanthropists, community organizations and Seattle Foundation are working to create lasting change in health and education.
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