I Speak for the Children! Parent Advocacy

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parent advocacy

We need to be like the Lorax and speak for children.

I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.

. . . Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, 
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
The Lorax

Parent Advocacy

parent advocacy

Look at all these Loraxes that participated in the Colorado Children’s Campaign and Children’s Hospital Colorado “Speak Up For Kids” day!
(Watch this video about the event.)

Be a Lorax and speak for the children. Here’s how.

1. Define Your Cause

Betty Lehman, Executive Director of the Autism Society of Colorado, suggests you consider this:

What do I support?

What’s my cause?

Hold up the candle of your own light of consciousness and by doing that you’re doing more than most people do.

You matter. Your families matter. Your communities matter.

“I am __________ [insert your name here], I speak for the children who  ______.” 

2. Prepare to Speak With Your Legislator

parent advocacy

1. Know about present and past legislation affecting children so you can speak specifically to what your senator and representative have voted on and will be voting on.

Resources for legislation issues:

Every Child Matters shares information about national issues related to children you need to know about.

The Children’s Defense Fund‘s website has tons of resources such as policy priorities, advocating, and state data on children.

Voices for America’s Children also reports on national issues but has a map of the states for you to find how to get involved locally.

First Focus is another advocacy group for children that you’ll want to know. They also have a state advocacy partner section to get more information and resources at a local level. Also, First Focus Campaign for Kids.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates for health policy issues and includes resources about policy and advocacy at both state and national levels.

Get on these groups’ email lists and stay current on the issues.

2. Request a meeting with your legislators. Identify yourself as a constituent!! Visit VoteSmart.org to find out who your legislators are.

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3. Prepare what you want to say. KEEP IT BRIEF! You may have to “walk and talk” because a legislator’s schedule is very full. Be prepared, be flexible.

Essential Talking Points:

  • Thank them for past support / voting for _______________. (shows you did your homework and builds good-will)
  • Ask them for support on _______________ because ______________________. (Make this brief. Include statistics and add a short anecdote that meaningfully impact their thinking.)
  • Ask for their commitment to vote for ___________.
example: (taken from my training at the state capitol with Children’s Hospital Colorado Director of Public Affairs, Heidi Baskfield, J.D. . . . any mistakes in translation are my own.)
“Hi, I’m Heidi Baskfield, and I’m here for Speak up for Kids Day. In March, there’s a budget bill and I wanted you to know that I want your support to keep funding for Medicaid and CHIP. Just so you know, 50% babies in this state are born on Medicaid and we know that good health coverage kids improves outcomes long term. I had a sister who got really sick with cancer and she couldn’t work. She needed the Medicaid program for my 5-year old nephew. People forget how many people depend on Medicaid for emergency situations like my sister. . . Can I count on your support for these programs?”
“I am __________ [insert your name here], I speak for the children who ______.” 

3. Meet with Your Legislator

parent advocacy

I laughed when Zach Zaslow, Policy Coordinator for the Children’s Hospital Colorado said this, “With lobbying, there’s a component that overlaps with stalking.” He added, “It can be challenging for some of you if you don’t have appointments to figure out where your legislators are. Remember to be assertive, polite and recognize the value of their time.

Stick with your talking points when you meet your legislator.

Amanda Adams, a cause warrior for congenital heart disease, said this, “Keep a journal. Write down what door closed in your face and what you learned from it. But don’t let that stop you! It’s not about you. It’s about your person, you’re a cause warrior, you just need to make other people see that.
When Adams spoke she reminded us that we all have a person that motivates us to speak up for children. “My person is Liam. But I represent not just Liam, I represent the two million American who have congenital heart disease, the 50,000 Coloradoans whose lives will end if they don’t have surgery in the first month of life.
Everyone in this room is a warrior of some kind. Something has caused you to become a warrior. Cause warriors are like people in the military – it doesn’t matter what branch (army, navy, . . . ) – this war is about kids not a specific cause. We can all learn from each other.”

“I am __________ [insert your name here], I speak for the children who ______.” 

4. Follow Up

After your meetings, be sure to send a written thank you note that briefly includes your talking points.

Keep in touch! My state representative goes to my church so I already know him. Despite the fact that we disagree on every issue, we have a friendly relationship, and when I saw him at the Capitol I jokingly told him I’d be asking him about his vote at church. (I won’t — that’s not cool. But I will call him during the week.)

Remember, your Senators and Representatives are people, not rock stars. They are often overwhelmed and need us, their constituents, to advocate for what’s important to us. They represent US, remember? (Even if you didn’t vote for them.)

And Now . . . Will You Do Something?

parent advocacy

“I am __________ [insert your name here], I speak for the children.” 

What can you commit to today? Even just signing up for an email newsletter from an advocacy group is a good start.

Will you be a Lorax and speak for the children?

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, 
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

You Might Also Like . . . 

Parent Advocacy Do’s and Dont’s

Push Has Come to Shove – Advocating in Education

My Story – Why I Didn’t Want to Send JJ Back to Kindergarten

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  1. Whether a seasoned advocate or a first timer, these are great tips. I am Myrdin and I speak for the children-for the Seth’s, the Jonah’s, the Finn’s of the world.

  2. This is really great advice and I like the step by step method because it takes intense emotion out of it and focuses on results and dialogue. My husband and I also focus on self advocacy as a skill for children to acquire. We start by simply having them ask waiters and waitresses when they have needs rather than have us do it. We also have our middle schooler talk to her teachers to sort out minor issues — homework that was turned in and not credited for example. Or why her grade wasn’t higher, what happened, what she needs to do better, and if there is extra credit opportunities. I think self advocacy for kids is a really valuable skill they MUST acquire before hitting college because we won’t be there to sort out their problems.

  3. My name is Melissa and I speak for the children who do not have their needs met at school. The ones who are not afforded a right to an educational benefit.

  4. Thank you for breaking down the process like this. Making my voice heard on the issues seems much more do-able with these four steps.