Gimme Five: Krista Scott
This week, we had a chance to chat with Krista Scott, a Voices Action Center leader who is dedicated to making each day healthier for children. As the current Senior Director for Child Care Health Policy at Child Care Aware of America, Krista is working at the forefront of policy, advocacy and equity.
How did you end up here today, and what motivates you to work on issues to help our kids grow up healthier?
Honestly? I was lucky enough to graduate college without crushing debt and I found an advanced degree, a Masters of Science in Social Work with a focus on Communities and Leadership (aka Nonprofit Management), that let me work on critical policy issues with a community and person centered approach.
I grew up in a bi-racial, low-to-middle income family, but I went to middle and high school at a private prep school. I had to drive 20 miles each day to school to get the highest quality education I could. I wanted to get an afterschool job at a coffee shop, and back then, the closest one was 15 miles away. I could have gotten a job at Jack in the Box, no problem though. That was down the street.
I’ve lived in lots of communities, and I see how income and race have created vast differences in access to resources. I know how polices impact and reinforce those differences and gaps. But, in order for me to get up every day and make friends, get my homework done, and find my passion, I had to focus on the similarities. And I used those as a bridge between communities.
Because I’ve seen first-hand how community resources can lead to poor health outcomes, I’ve made it my mission to find these connections and build these bridges, through policy, through my work, so that all children have the same opportunity to be healthy, wherever they live.
How are you working to change the environment to make it healthier and create a culture of health?
For me, it’s important to connect what we know works in research to policies in programs and in states. And when we don’t have what we need to do things right, we use data to show it and to demand change.
My job is to make sure that child care settings are as healthy as possible for the children and families and the providers in those communities. I do so by helping write standards and policies that promote physical and social emotional health, by providing advocates with data that indicates where and how they can ask for policy change or funding for communities that need it the most, and that I use community-based research to identify and share practices that, specifically in child care, can lead to healthy choices.
What are your biggest personal and professional accomplishments in helping children be healthy?
Personally, I have three step children. I came into their lives when they were 2, 4 and 7, and at the time they had a lot of time in front of TV and video games, lots of carb-heavy foods, drank soda a lot and ate some but not a lot of vegetables. They were pretty active dudes already and still are. But I’ve used tricks and tips on introducing new foods, have helped them shift their taste preferences and have helped them find other things to do than play video games and watch TV. We ride bikes, scooters and skateboards, I have two broccoli monsters, and Brussels sprouts are a favorite. The biggest shift? My middle child, who hated spinach, now eats it without complaining.
Professionally, I am proud that I have supported campaigns and programs in seeing how important healthy habits are for children within their child care community. Healthy habits have positive outcomes for the children in child care, but when the providers model these healthy habits, they get the benefit too—just like when parents change their habits. And it’s beautiful that we can have community impact, with children, families and child care providers.
What is the change you would like to see most in communities, or where do you see the greatest unmet needs, in helping children be healthy?
For me, the biggest issues are equity issues. We expect those who come from under resourced communities who already demonstrate an amazing amount of resilience, to bear the brunt of social and norm change. To implement our policies and strategies without the information, education, or materials and support to do so effectively. And we expect them to do it on a shoe string or to work really hard to find the resources to create change. It shouldn’t be that hard for those communities who need the most support to get it and we shouldn’t make them give up control of their community in order to access resources. Change comes from our systems, but I’ll wager that there’s a bit of burn out that happens that can be avoided. We need to figure out how to properly equip our amazing, resilient community change agents better.
If you were starting out in your career, what would you recommend to your younger self? Tip of the day from the person.
Everyone can teach you something. Be open, find the common connections, trust your gut about people, good or bad. Pay attention to your own health. Move on when it’s time.
Visit Child Care Aware of America’s website to learn more about their efforts to make each day healthier for children.