Category Archives: advocacy

The most important call you’ll ever make

Margaret MeadGuest-blogger and Director of 4C Kentucky Services Julie Witten shares her thoughts on the role of early childhood professionals in advocating for children.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead was on to something when she noted the importance of standing up for what you believe in. Despite this time of often sensationalized election coverage, it is important to remember what the democratic process—and the role of our elected officials—is really all about.

Elected officials are chosen by the people to represent the people and are answerable to those who elected them. You may think that your opinion or your voice doesn’t matter or can’t make a difference once someone is elected. In fact, quite the opposite is true. All elected officials offer a variety of ways (phone, email or in person) for you to contact them, but first you need to know what legislative district you live in. To find your legislator in Kentucky click here and in Ohio click here. This video shows just how easy it is to make a call to your legislator!

The Kentucky and Ohio state legislatures are in session now and representatives are making big decisions. So, this is a perfect time to contact your legislator about issues that are important to you.

What do you say? Is it important to you that families have access to child care assistance funding? Would you like to see additional incentives for providers in STARS for KIDS NOW in Kentucky or Step Up To Quality in Ohio? What supports would help your small business to thrive? If these or any other issues rise to the top of your list, contact your representative.

And, if you would like to see what statewide advocates for children and families are asking for, take a look at the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children or Groundwork Ohio.

Remember, it’s the duty of each elected official to listen to his or her constituents, the people who reside in his or her district. Each time you call or email, your exact words are registered on a green slip and the legislator reviews these each day.

Let your voice be heard. Your opinion matters!

Use your voice for children! I did.

This is a guest post from Paige Runion, Leadership Coach at 4C for Children.

I have often reflected that I am a product of 4C for Children, the regional child care resource and referral agency in our region. I’ve grown from my early years of doing the wrong things for the right reasons, learned to become a reflective early childhood professional and, now, am pursuing my passion for early care and education as an employee of 4C. It has been quite a journey. And what I love is this: All along, I have been learning.

My most recent lesson was in advocacy, through immersion. In the past, I have written a letter or two to express an opinion to a legislator. In 2006, I even sent an invitation to Steve Chabot to visit the Step Up To Quality star-rated child care center I administered (I was so surprised when he actually came.).

But my more recent lesson in advocacy was the “in over your head, too far to swim back to shore” kind. A team from 4C was headed to Columbus to talk to our state legislators about the importance of children having access to quality early learning experiences. As I answered the email and accepted the invitation to go, I immediately considered backing out. The very thought of it shoved me into my own un-comfort zone. Would I feel like an outsider, or what Sallie Westheimer called “newish”? I stick my toes in the water slowly, and this was deep water. It felt risky, but I love to learn.

I used my voice for children. You can too!

4C for Children staff who attended Advocacy Day 2014 in Columbus included (from left to right): Lorna, Sallie, Delorise, Paige, Shelley and Annetta. Here they are standing on a map of Ohio, covering all of the counties that 4C serves!

Having the opportunity to see and participate in Ohio’s legislative process was a new experience for me. Government was not in my top 10 interests in high school, but it came alive as I walked through the halls of Ohio’s Statehouse and the offices of the Ohio General Assembly representatives and senators. Having the support of colleagues made each of us more comfortable. We watched Sallie Westheimer, our CEO, smoothly model introductions and we listened carefully to how she phrased her opening descriptions of the legislation we were there to discuss–a new bill not yet introduced. Soon our own stories sprang out of our mouths, however. Our passion for children and their families outweighed any hesitancy. And there we were, all learning again.

We visited and spoke to aides in the offices of State Representatives Denise Driehaus, Timothy Derickson and Bill Coley as well as Senator Bill Seitz. We met with State Senator Eric Kearney. They learned of a bill coming to the floors of the House and Senate that will greatly help Ohio’s children who need it most. And we learned how to use the voice we have for children.

And Sallie? What did she learn? Well, Sallie learned something about each of us. I quietly marveled at how gracefully she shared her skills with us and the importance of what we were doing. I continue to think of ways to take this experience back to other administrators, and I am considering some strategies to support them in beginning to understand the power of their individual voices.

Will I return next year? Absolutely. And Sallie, I’ll not only go first, but you can give me a “newish” partner. I’m “oldish” now. And now I’m wondering what Capitol Hill looks like on the inside.

When Respite is Needed

A month ago, 4C released the news that it had formed a partnership with the U.S. Air Force to help military families with special needs children who are in need of respite care.

For several years, I was an Early Intervention Specialist working with infants and toddlers with special needs. My “home base” was a children’s hospital where I provided services to inpatient children and families.  I often observed these parents working on their weekly family schedules. I was amazed at the amount of coordination, skill and stress involved in managing this puzzle. Just for the child I was working with, there were often multiple doctors and therapists to meet. Add into the mix, sibling school, sport and meeting schedules as well as parent work or school commitments. That didn’t include grocery shopping, cleaning, dinner or just enjoying each other’s company!

While many families struggle with balancing the demands of family life and all parents need a break once in a while, it is a more elaborate balancing act for families of children with special needs. This can create stress for each member of the family. Not only is having enough time and energy an issue, but it is often difficult finding someone to provide care for the child with special needs. In many situations, this means that the family misses activities or one parent stays home, splitting the family up. I encountered this during my work with hospitalized infants and toddlers. Having quality support helps everyone in the family, including the other children, by reducing the stress level and sustaining the relationships within the family.

Please keep this in mind when working with your families. Take some time to ask how they are doing and how the whole family is doing. Understand that parents of special needs children may not be able to make every event or program that you have. Try to help find other ways for them to be involved at your center. While not all the families will qualify for the Air Force respite care program, there are other resources in the community that offer respite care for families of children with special needs. Become a resource for your parents! Find out about other services that are offered in your area and check with your county Board of Developmental Disabilities for information for families. The Board of DD will be able to help coordinate services and they are a wealth of information for families and teachers.

–Nicole May