Children’s Hospital fails Black people

For years, Seattle Children’s Hospital refused to provide adequate care to Black people, dismissed Black patients, doctors, workers and community members, and ignored Black community needs and demands, resulting in increased Black death. It discriminated against non-English speakers; called police and security disproportionately on its patients of color; and retaliated on staff and workers for calling for accountability.

As a collective of Black community organizations, leaders, mothers, grandmothers, parents, and more driving Black health equity in Martin Luther King Jr. County, we collectively call for:

  1. Children’s Hospitals’ donors to redirect funding into Black-led health solutions that truly serve and are accountable to the Black community. Take this reflective moment to sever funding for an institution that abuses, discriminates, mistreats and kills Black people. Instead, invest in critically under-resourced, local Black health organizations like: the Tubman Center for Health and Freedom, African American Health Board, SURGE Reproductive Justice and more.1
  2. Children’s Hospital to cede Odessa Brown Clinic back to Black community ownership. The Odessa Brown Clinic was birthed from amazing Black organizing fighting against the same health injustices the Children’s Hospital is now trying to silence 50+ years later. It is a dishonor to this legacy, and to the Black community more generally, for the Children's Hospital - an institution that has demonstrated such anti-Black racism - to be the steward of Odessa, Odessa Brown Clinic must revert back to Black community ownership.
  3. Children’s Hospital to provide 10 years of operating funds to the Black community, to go towards Odessa Brown Clinic site operations.
  4. Children’s Hospital to immediately inject funding into Black-led health equity solutions (listed above) before 2021 year-end:
    • $30M - Tubman Center for Health & Freedom capital campaign
    • $3M - African American Health Board to bring on leadership team and staff
    • 5% of Children’s Hospital’s endowment to Black community
  5. Children’s Hospital to immediately fire CEO Jeffery Sperring2 and remove Board Chair Susan Betcher. Both have demonstrated abysmal leadership, anti-Blackness racism, and have caused irreparable harm to King County’s / Seattle’s Black community. We reject either continuing at Children’s Hospital in any capacity.

Children’s Hospital has wholesale failed Black people. Moreover, its leadership not only failed to act but worked to actively cover-up Children’s Hospital malpractice. Under the false guise of trusted stewardship, Children’s preyed upon the only Black-led health clinic in the Pacific Northwest, the Odessa Brown Clinic. The clinics’ namesake is a Black woman who was denied medical services for her own health problems. As a Black community organizer, she fought for quality health care with dignity for children in the Central District. Odessa Brown died of leukemia in 1969, a year before the first clinic opened.

Since stepping into the very privileged position of (purporting) to serve the local Black community, Children’s Hospital has only rejected and abused its responsibility. For years, it refused to provide adequate care to Black people, dismissed Black patients, doctors, workers and community members, and ignored Black community needs and demands, resulting in disparate treatment and wholly preventable Black death.

Like many, many white-led non-profits and institutions, Children’s Hospital exploited Black plight for its own financial and reputational gain. It boldly and vapidly launched a “$1.35 Billion” capital campaign presenting itself as a steward for the exact population it failed and continues to fail to serve. See its fundraising photos to the right. Children’s Hospital elevated the Odessa Brown Clinic and Black children as props without providing adequate funding; discriminated against non-English speakers; called the police/security disproportionately on its patients of color; and retaliated on staff and workers for calling for accountability.

Campaign site for Seattle Children's with a Black person as the background Screenshot from Seattle Children's $1.35 Billion capital campaign

Children’s Hospital actively covered-up its negligence and has only started to acknowledge its failures after immense community pressure and public backlash3. Most recently, this culminated in the resignation of esteemed physician Dr. Ben Danielson - a trusted, deeply-rooted Black community health equity leader - who cited rampant institutional anti-Black racism and the wholesale failure of Children’s Hospital leadership as the driving force behind his departure.

In response, Children’s Hospital conducted an PR “investigation” and then actively refused to publish the investigation’s results beyond ridiculous, meaningless recommendations like “listen more.”4 After incredible backlash from the local Black community, Children’s Hospital was forced to release a limited, strategically-selected portion of its findings that only confirmed what we already know. High-level findings are included below.

We call on Children’s Hospital’s donors to redirect funding to solutions that actually work to serve Black peoples. We call on Children’s Hospital to: cede ownership of Odessa Brown, put 10 years of operating funds to Black community to base-build the site; to immediately inject funding into Black-led health organizations before the 2021 year-end, including $30M to the Tubman Center for Health and Freedom, $3M to the African American Health Board and more; immediately fire CEO Jeffrey Sperring; and remove Board Chair Susan Betcher.

There are clear opportunities to change the disturbing reality of abysmal Black health into one where Black people are treated with dignity and are thriving. The solution is investing in existing Black health clinics and organizations5, including:

  • Tubman Health and its efforts to establish the NW's only Black-led federally qualified health clinic (FQHC) or FQHC Look-alike
  • African American Health Board, a currently entirely volunteer-run Black health policy institute, to pay for an executive director and staff
  • Surge Reproductive Justice
  • Somali Health Board and more.

Seattle Children's Findings



1 This is an initial, growing list of accountable Black community health organizations.
2Seattle’s Children’s CEO Jeffrey Sperring makes over $1.4 million dollars a year to continually fail the local Black community.
3Notably, even the Seattle Times Editorial board, a notoriously conservative body, joined calls demanding more transparency and accountability for Seattle Children’s Hospital’s racism.
4Horrifically, current board chair Susan Betcher referred to the toothless recommendations and findings as “a clear roadmap for Seattle Children’s to move forward.”
5 See Building Collective Black Power in Health Conference here.

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