A white paper review by Laura Eldredge The manual “The ABC’s of Advocacy in Child Care” (put together by the Child Care Resource Center, Inc.) is a summary of the many ways a person can become involved in advocating for child care issues. Even though this publication focuses on the resources available in the state of Massachusetts; it is still a very useful resource to child care professionals and for families with young children anywhere. It can be a springboard into researching similar services available in your state. Here is a review of this manual, which will cover some of the highlights of the many ways to get involved in promoting affordable, high quality early education programs.The Role of State Government The state governments consist of three branches: (legislative, executive and judicial), just like the federal government. “The ABC’s of Advocacy in Child Care” explains each level, and how advocates interact at those levels.The legislative branch has the responsibility of budgeting and turning bills into laws. Legislation on child care issues can be heard by a Joint Committee on Human Services and Elderly Affairs. The head of the executive branch is the Governor of the state, and is made up of various other leaders. The Governor has the power to sign bills into laws and to veto bills. The third branch of the state government (the judicial branch), is made up of the court system. While this branch can be useful to advocate for various causes; it is not a common place for advocates of child care. Communicating with your Legislator This section of the manual really shows how a person can take action, and outlines steps to take in becoming an advocate for early childhood education and quality child care. This section starts off by talking about the influences on your Legislator, as they are responsible to many people and many issues in the community. Influences like the media, local businesses, lobbyists, community agencies are all competing for the support of your Legislator. Even with that being said, your Legislator will not know your concerns if you do not communicate with them. The manual summarizes several ways to communicate with your Legislator, such as writing a letter, calling to speak to your Legislator or a member of his/her staff, making an appointment to speak in person or writing a letter to the editor. Whatever means that are used in communicating with your Legislators, there are some key communication tips that can make a huge difference in how your message comes across.
- Know that YOU are the expert of your issue - In specifically speaking to child care issues, you have the experience and knowledge of the day-to-day problems that you face.
- Your Legislator should be accountable to YOU - It is their job to represent your issues in the decisions they make and the causes that they support.
- Legislator aides are useful people to talk to – Aides brief the Legislators on conversations with constituents, so talking to an aide is just as valuable as being able to talk to your Legislator directly.
- Be sure to communicate your goals or what you would like to see achieved – Be as specific as you can about what changes you would like to see made or what resources you need.
- Be prepared – Know what you want to communicate, and have your facts ready.
- Don’t worry if you can’t answer a question – Offer to get the answer to them as soon as possible.
- FOLLOW-UP! Be sure to send a note and thank them for their time and maintain regular contact.