What Child Advocates Can Do
In all states and Congressional districts, there are organizations that have, at least as part of their mission, advocating on behalf of children and families. Some may focus on family economic security, while others focus on child abuse prevention, and still others on child health or education. Child-care providers, nurse practitioners, kindergarten teachers, juvenile corrections officers, and foster youth themselves all have valuable insights and perspectives that should contribute to federal policy actions on children and families.
Voices of child advocates can come across as a fragmented array of competing policy recommendations. Further, no one child electoral advocacy effort may be enough to elevate child policy issues to a level where candidates feel they must address them.
By combining forces, however, child advocacy organizations can help candidates see both the “forest” of the federal government’s overall role in child policy and the individual “trees” that constitute their own area of focus.
Child advocacy organizations can do the following to raise child-policy issues in federal campaigns:
- Come together to establish an overarching message on the importance of child policy issues, which is then used by individual organizations as an underlying theme, even when their contacts stress a particular child policy agenda.
- Disseminate information to candidates on child policy issues, such as this guide, with or without a cover letter or other description of endorsing/contributing organizations.
- Meet with editorial and news staff and media covering electoral campaigns and provide them with briefing materials on child policy issues.
- Schedule meetings with candidates or their policy staff to brief them on the federal child policy issues and offer to provide additional information.
- Follow-up on any requests for additional information, including providing state-specific (and even Congressional-district) information on how federal programs operate and who is served by them.
- Track candidate events and encourage local advocates to attend and raise child policy questions with candidates.
- Seek earned media, including letters-to-the-editor and op eds, that raise these issues in the press.
- Organize a candidate debate on child policy issues, or work with organizations moderating such debates to include child-policy questions.
- Seek responses from candidates to an open-ended set of questions on children’s issues and make their responses available in a voter’s guide on child policy issues.