As parents and child care professionals, 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 your state.
- Advocate for passage (or defeat) of any bill which affects children and child care.
- Urge better funding for child care and children's services in your state.
- Suggest new legislation for children and child care.
With all forms of advocacy, 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 (usually with greater impact) with others. You may wish to join children's advocacy organizations or even start your own association of child care professionals in your area to do effective advocacy work.
Tips for talking with your legislators
Letters -- Legislators appreciate the time it takes 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. Make your letters look professional, and write on your business or personal letterhead, using a business letter format.
Address your letters to your state legislators as follows:
The Honorable (full name)
State House, Room #
City, State, Zip
Phone Calls -- It is helpful to keep in contact with your legislator's staff on a regular basis. A staff member will usually answer your call. Introduce yourself, and mention your title and affiliation. If you are a constituent of the legislator, say so; constituents' issues get the most action. Ask for your call to be directed to the staff member who covers the issue you are addressing.
Meetings -- An actual meeting is the most effective contact. It shows you are really serious and can facilitate a relationship between you and your representatives or their staff. Arrive on time. Legislators and their staff have extremely busy schedules. The staff member may only have a short time to meet with you, and arriving late makes that time even shorter. Introduce yourself, and mention your title and affiliation; if you are a constituent of the legislator, be sure to say so, as constituents' issues get the most action. Bring along a fact sheet with you about the issue you are discussing, to help the legislator understand the issue better and to be used later by the legislator to inform other members of the issue. Invite the legislator to visit your program to see the issues firsthand!
Getting Down to Business
Whether you are writing a letter, talking on the telephone with a staff member, or sitting across the desk from your representative, these tips for effective advocacy should serve you well.
State the Issue. Organize your points by priority and be clear and brief. If you are speaking about a particular piece of legislation, have the bill/budget number. (You can get this information online from Thomas: U.S. Congress or by calling the Senate or House clerks.)
Have information -- facts or personal stories -- that backs up your issue. If at any time in the process you are asked a question that you cannot answer, offer to get back to them with the information, and be sure to follow through.
Make a request for a particular action, whether it’s a vote to support a bill, a request to file an amendment, or a motion to move a bill out of a particular committee.
Ask about their position on the issue. You have the right to know where they stand and why. Ask if you can provide the legislator with more information. Invite the legislator to visit your program to see the issues first hand!
After a contact, be sure to follow up with a thank-you letter to your legislator or the staff member with whom you spoke. Review key points that you discussed.
Here is where to find your members of Congress: