Make Your Voice Heard – Become a Child Advocate
Child advocates and citizens must ensure that children’s issues are at the forefront of our officials’ minds and position platforms. This is the way to ensure our kids get the attention they need both at the state Capitol and in every county across Colorado. Below are some tips for becoming a better child advocate. Join us at Speak Up for Kids Day for more in-depth child advocacy training.
The legislative session provides a variety of opportunities to connect with lawmakers. Be sure to speak up. Come prepared with facts, share a story, and ask thoughtful questions. Some ways to become more engaged and educated on child advocacy include the following:
- Attend a town hall, debate, or community forum, and ask questions about child well-being.
- Host a coffee hour to learn more about elected officials in a casual environment.
- Send facts or questions to elected officials by tagging them on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
- Call your elected official for a one-on-one conversation. You can find their contact information on their campaign websites.
- Send an email message asking about child health, K-12 education, or early childhood learning and development.
Child Advocacy Tips
Being an “expert” is not a requirement. It is important to recognize that the best advocate is not a lobbyist or public policy professional who “knows it all.” The most effective advocate is one who believes in what they are promoting, and whose sincerity and commitment to the subject are readily apparent. Your expertise and interest in children’s issues make you a trustworthy spokesperson. Below are child advocacy tips to help you become a more effective advocate when speaking to legislators:
- Be yourself. Sincerity, honesty, and a strong belief in the concepts and programs you are advocating for will come across loud and clear. If you are passionate about an issue, you already have the most important skill to being an effective advocate.
- Know your elected official and their contact information. Between federal, state, and local level representatives, keeping track of who represents you can be difficult. To identify your state senator, state representative, and state board of education representatives and access their contact information, enter your zip code at www.votesmart.org. Visit your school district website to find your local school board members.
- Communicate with your elected officials. You can write letters or emails, call, or meet with them in person. In order for your representatives to better and more accurately represent you, they need to know what you care about.
- When you talk with your legislator, remember to address them appropriately. For example, Representative _____ or Senator _____.
- Always introduce yourself when you speak with your elected official. Let them know where you live and why you are interested in a particular issue.
- Don’t be afraid to speak from your experience. If you are a parent, let them know where your children go to school, what you are concerned about, and how they can help. If you are part of a coalition or group, make sure you mention the group you represent.
- Be respectful. It’s important to remember, especially when it comes to politics, that we are all working to make Colorado the best state for our children.
- Understand the issue that you are speaking about, but don’t worry about being an expert. It’s important to go into a conversation understanding where Colorado stands and how the policy could impact kids, but don’t worry about knowing every little detail.
- Develop a personal relationship with legislative champions. You can find out who chairs the committee dealing with an issue, or talk to the sponsors of the bill. This information is available on the General Assembly website.
- Get involved as early as you can. It’s always easier to change a bill or stop something from moving on if you get involved early.
- Stick with the most critical issues from start to finish, and know when to get involved in the details and when to rise above the noise.
- Be specific and brief in your requests. Many legislators do not have a lot of time to discuss issues at length. Hearing from you in a strategic and concise manner will help you and them. For example, “please vote yes on House Bill X,” or “please voice your opposition to X proposal”.
- Make sure your materials are only one page. It’s helpful to have bulleted materials that are concise and easy to understand.
- Leave contact information for questions and follow-up.
- Network with others. Educate community leaders and community members to raise awareness and broaden support on your issue. It’s always easier to make your voice heard when it is amplified by others who feel similarly.
- Above all else, don’t forget that your voice matters. Don’t be afraid to speak up and speak out on policy decisions that impact you, your family, or your community.
- What do you think is the biggest challenge facing children in our community today? What strategies do you plan to pursue to address this issue?
- Research shows that children with a regular source of health care are more likely to access routine and preventive health care services, like immunizations, that keep them healthy and out of expensive emergency room visit. Insured kids are also more likely to have a regular source of care than uninsured kids. Unfortunately, there are (NUMBER) of uninsured kids in our community. What are you doing to provide health care to more kids in (NAME OF COMMUNITY)? [Use district fact sheet to identify number of uninsured kids in your community.]
- Childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate, and being overweight or obese is closely linked to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. What do you think the most effective strategies are for supporting healthy habits in our kids? What are you doing to create environments that support healthier children?
- Many of the programs that support vulnerable children – health, education and family support programs – have been cut in recent years due to budget shortfalls. While the economy is recovering, it is a slow recovery. How do you propose addressing funding for programs to support children? What are your budget priorities?
- What do you think are the most pressing issues facing our public education system, and what action do you propose to address these issues?
- What role should the legislature play in expanding access to early childhood education programs?