Advocacy for Children and Families
As a child care professional or parent, you can have an impact not only through your daily care for children, but also through advocacy for children’s issues, whether on the local, state, or national level. Advocacy can be as simple as writing a postcard to your legislator or as complex as running a campaign to pass a referendum. Keep current on legislation and budget issues pending in Illinois, and then you can advocate for passage or defeat of any bill which affects children, families and early childhood education and care. As an advocate for children, you should be well-informed, able to state what you want and why it is important, and give facts to support your request. You can act alone or with others. You can join children’s advocacy organizations as way to show your support for their efforts. As a member of these organizations, you will receive legislative alerts and action steps to guide you in your advocacy efforts.
Tips for Talking with Your Legislator
Letters – Legislators appreciate the time you take to write a letter. Letters are kept on file in the office according to topic area. Attention is given to the issues with the greatest amount of constituent response. Limit the letters to one page and no more than three paragraphs. The more clearly you state your issue, the better it will be understood. A personal story about how the issues affect you as a provider or parent will appeal to legislators. They need to put a face to the issue. One legislator said that one letter was worth 100 calls and 100 calls suggested a concern of significance by constituents. Your calls, letters and cards do make a difference. Imagine what art work from the children would accomplish!
Phone Calls – Don’t be afraid. Most organizations will let you know exactly what to say to your legislator when they send an alert. You rarely speak directly to the legislator. Creating a trusting relationship with a legislator’s staff is very helpful. They are understanding and want to know what you think so they can pass the information on to your Senator or Representative. Many times when it is a state wide alert for phone calls, the office being called will keep a tally of yes or no on an issue and you will have to say very little. But, this all creates a picture for your legislator and it makes a difference!
Meeting with your Legislator – As an advocate, you should create a relationship with your legislators so that when you have a concern they already know you and trust your judgement on issues. Be positive and polite. Do not accuse the legislator of “not caring”. Be patient. Talk about your program, children and families. Explain how certain actions on behalf of the legislature will affect your program and families. Most importantly, thank them for their support of children and families in the past.
Follow-up – Send thank you cards after meetings, on holidays, at the end of session and other special events. Phone calls of thanks when desired legislation is past or thanks when a particular legislation is defeated provides another opportunity to make contact. Follow-up is crucial in building relationships with legislators. We must not only ask for help, but appreciate their efforts in return.
Be sure to vote in every election – To find your local legislator: http://www.elections.il.gov/districtlocator/addressfinder.aspx
Want to know the action alerts in your area? Join Illinois Children’s Champions! Add yourself to the NAEYC’s Children’s Champion’s e-mail list: http://www.naeyc.org/policy/