Children need caring adults in their life to help make decisions about their future. Those adults include parents, child care providers, teachers, education administrators, business owners and the community at large. Each group has a stake in our future generation and as such can become advocates for children. As an advocate you can influence public policies and encourage positive programming that support children in a variety of ways. This is done by contacting legislators, joining advocacy groups or educating yourself and your peers about relevant issues.
Programs for Parents’ Policy Agenda
1) All children deserve high quality early education and child care because the 0-5 years have the greatest impact on children’s lives and future. This is why Programs for Parents supports high quality early child care programs, trains child care providers, and assists parents with the technical and financial resources they need to obtain quality care.
2) All children deserve a healthy start in life. Programs for Parents supports child health services, preventive care programs, nutrition programs, health education and affordable insurance for children in low income families.
3) Child safety and protection from abuse is paramount. Programs for Parents advocates for programs and policies that protect children and ensure safe environments in both child care facilities and in the home.
PfP Supports These Policy Issues:
-Improve the pay scale for all staff working in child care centers and for family child care homes
-Increase the number of qualified, early childhood-trained teachers
-Availability of child care financial subsidies to assist parents with the considerable cost of child care
-Help centers and family child care providers access required services in order to include children with special needs
-Increase number of nationally accredited child care centers to provide parents with greater options in selecting quality child care.
-Encourage public schools to offer pre-school education by contracting with existing community based early care programs
-Protect children from abuse
-Increase health care and wellness programs and assistance for children and families
Advocates: Contacting Your Elected Officials
The most effective thing you can do as a citizen is to “SPEAK UP”. It is the job of any elected individual to represent the interests of their constituency. However, they must hear from us. Establishing an effective relationship with your elected official helps educate them and ensures that votes aren’t cast without your input. Phone calls, letters, face-to-face meetings, and the delivery of testimony are all effective ways to reach out to elected officials and decision makers.
To find your district’s NJ State legislators, click here.
To contact your U.S. State Senator, click here.
To contact your U.S. congressperson, click here.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Do your Homework
· Most legislators and elected officials have biographies on their website detailing their background and political philosophy. Learn from it.
· You probably won’t speak directly with your elected official, but you can ask to speak with an aid assigned to early education or child care issues
· Identify yourself with a reference to your hometown and to your affiliating organization. Leave a phone number and address.
· Explain why you are calling and cite specific legislation, if appropriate.
· Offer 1 or 2 brief and concise examples that support your position using local and personal examples.
· Send a personal note thanking the person for his or her concern.
· Public hearings are one way that decision makers and legislators take the public’s “pulse” on issues. You should call the hosting office to discuss your intention to testify and follow-up with a letter confirming your request to appear. Sometimes spots are limited and community groups and organizations can work together to be strategic about what testimony should be provided.
· Use proper form and snail mail the letter. (See website references for help)
· Type letters on your organization’s stationary when you represent a community agency or handwrite a note if you are speaking from personal experience.
· Keep letters to one page, addressing one issue per letter.
· State the purpose of the letter in the first paragraph. Cite legislation, if appropriate.
· Personal stories work best! Explain how the issue affects you or families in the voting community.
· Be constructive. Explain why the legislator should care. Suggest a solution if you disagree with his or her stance.
· Request a reply and consider responding to the reply to remind them that you will follow their action on the issue.
· A face-to-face meeting is the most effective way to develop a relationship with your elected official and it is easier to set-up then you might think. You need to be explicit by asking them to call to set up a meeting. Include his or her staff in your visit, particularly those who are assigned to early care issues. Don’t be disappointed if you get an appointment with staff only. They follow issues closely and regularly brief decision-makers.
· Be concise – spend no more than fifteen or twenty minutes
· Prepare a one-page background sheet to leave with staff.
· Bring photos, when possible, and share stories about how children are personally affected by their decisions.
· Ask for some commitment to an action that will help your position – such as a site visit to witness how the issue affects families.
· Follow-up with a thank you letter.
There are many helpful resources on the web that make it easy to identify and communicate with your elected official. Check out these Web sites for more information:
www.njleg.state.nj.us – The official Web site of the NJ Legislature will allow you to find your legislator, research his or her voting history, research bills and statutes, view calendars of upcoming events in the legislature, get public hearing transcripts, identify committee groups, watch live proceedings through a webcast, and listen to archived proceedings on file.
www.votesmart.org – As a national library of factual information, Project Vote Smart covers your candidates and elected officials in five basic categories: biographical information, issue positions, voting records, campaign finances, and interest group ratings. A great resource to learn about those seeking office as well as those already serving.
www.congress.org – Visitors can use the site’s ZIP code search engine to sort through pages of biographical information on national and local elected officials or candidates for office. Similar functionality is available for locating local media, bills and legislation, rules and regulations open for public comment, and much more.
Child Care Aware of NJ partners with a variety of advocacy groups in New Jersey and nationwide. The following agencies offer valuable advocacy information regarding current public policy in the area of early care and education:
· Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) –www.acnj.org
· Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) –www.clasp.org
· Child Care Aware – www.childcareaware.org
· Child Care Aware of New Jersey – www.ccanj.org
· Child Welfare League of America – www.cwla.org
· Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) –www.childrensdefense.org
· National Association for Family Child Care –www.nafcc.org
· National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) – www.naeyc.org
· National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) – www.naccrra.org
· National Child Care Information Exchange –www.nccic.org
· National Institute for Early Education Research –www.nieer.org
· National Women’s Law Center – www.nwlc.org
· New Jersey School Age Care Coalition – www.njsacc.org
· Voices for America’s Children – www.childadvocacy.org
· Zero to Three – www.zerotothree.org