Children's Issues and You
by Luane Lange
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Government regulations and policies affect you, both as a citizen and a business person. You have a special role because you care for children, and you care about children. Concerns of families and children surface every day in your world. You have a special reason to become aware of public policy issues facing children and their families.
Most people only become involved in policies when they have individual problems. Multiply these by the number of children and families in your community, and know that the problem is actually a community problem. Multiply regulations and policies that affect child care by the number of child care programs, and know that the issue in reality is a business problem. In both cases, the issues have become larger than personal....and they beckon you to become involved.
"Government and agency systems and me, I have no clue!" "I don't know what's going on!" "I'm too busy! Anyway, other people make the decisions." "How can I make a difference?"
How can you connect your role as a citizen and small business person, and impact the governing systems that affect you?
A two-pronged whammy! You are a contributing professional with special knowledge and linkages. You are a voter who elects the officials in your town and state.
The nature of your business, child care, benefits the community, its families and its economic base. As a child care professional you have a responsibility to support child care as a business. One important way to do that is to provide information about children and their families to decision-makers.
As a voter you have the right to expect your community's needs to be addressed. What happens or doesn't happen with children affects your community, its present and its future. You have special ties to children's issues in your community. You have a larger view.
- A. START LOCALLY
- Gather information so you know the players and the issues. Most information can be found in local newspapers. Setting up the system outlined below will give you a picture of who might share your concerns and who might oppose them.
- B. KEEP FOLDERS
- Keep one that identifies the "players" in politics and decisions related to your community. It could include lists of memberships of local school boards, commissions on aging, Republican and Democratic town committees(or Independent).
- Keep a folder of child-related activities such as a service group's egg hunt, a library program on parenting, a Cooperative Extension program on child development,etc.
- Have a folder of meetings, officers and awards of local groups that do these activities.
- Keep names of people you meet and names you hear.
- When you wish to impact on a policy, re-sort the information to find who might support your position and help you. and those who might need to learn more about your issues. Contact these people.
- Know the names of your county officials, state legislators and Federal congressional representatives. Keep a folder on them too.
- C. TAKE ACTION
Soon your folders will give you ideas on issues in your community and who to talk or write to about them. Prepare to write or phone!
- To prevent putting off writing when an issue becomes important enough for you to contact someone, pre-write some thoughts to use. Write only two or three sentences about why you care about children's or child care issues. For example: "Dear Mr./Mrs. So and So: You were recently quoted as having said, "...." Because I have worked with children and am interested in issues concerning them, (a) I am so glad you have taken this position. I agree with you, because.................
(b) I cannot agree with the position you have taken because I believe the consequences of what you are suppporting will be.............." (List what you think will be ineffective, and give your ideas of what you believe will happen.) It is also always helpful to end with alternatives you believe could work. It is important to include your name and address in a letter to the newspaper or your government representative.
- You may find that there are names of other individuals in your folders (who might agree with you) whom you may want to contact about the issue in which you are interested. While one voice can make a difference, a group can provide more pressure at certain times. So, consider contacting others in your community or child care network.
- Read and listen to others about the issues. Register to vote, and vote in every election! VOTE!