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Tips for Getting Active in Advocacy

February 4, 2013


A collection of voices is more powerful...(because) having voices of youth is critical to convince legislators.

Miriam Krinsky

Executive Director

Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles

Advocates offer advice for getting involved:

Don’t think advocacy is “too hard”: “Advocacy is far easier than some expect,” says Sydney Kamlager-Santner, manager of public affairs at Crystal Stairs, a child care resource and referral agency. “The resources (it takes) are well worth the investment of time and energy.”

“We all work over 40 hours a week so (advocating) seems daunting,” agrees Judith Baker, director of the Family Resource Center for the South of Market Area Child Care. “But achieve something though collective action that you couldn’t individually, and it all seems worthwhile.”

“Just do something,” adds Paul Miller, executive director of Kidango. “It’s the cumulative effect of advocacy that creates change.”

Educate yourself: Ask yourself “what are barriers to services? what policies affect them?” advises Patty Siegel, executive director of the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

Child care centers can “collect information (on) requests being made by families,” Siegel says. “What do they say their needs are? Use that information to tell a story that policymakers and the press can understand.”

Start small: “Pick something significant, but doable,” says Miriam Krinsky, executive director of the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles (CLCLA).

Miller says even talking with friends and family is important.

“Twenty years ago people believed government didn’t have a role educating preschool children,” Miller says. “Now polls show 60 percent of people support universal preschool.”

Reach out: “A collection of voices is more powerful,” Krinsky says. CLCLA partners with California Youth Connection because “having voices of youth is critical to convince legislators.”

Baker says SOMA Child Care works closely with a collaborative of residents and community organizations. Together they worked with a San Francisco supervisor to get local developers to promise more low-income housing.

Involve those most affected: “Parents and providers hold the best chance of getting your message across,” Kamlager-Santner says.

When Governor Davis cut child care funds for families transitioning off welfare, Siegel recalls how Parent Voices (an active parent-led organization) organized parents to testify on short notice.

“So many parents testified that the proposal was defeated,” Kamlager-Santner says.

Provide agency support: Baker says she covers other staff members’ teaching responsibilities so they can attend training and advocacy opportunities.

Originally written by Kevin Hickey.