How to Advocate for Early Child Care and Education

I remember years ago, when my Director told me that I needed to begin advocating for early child care and education. She walked into my office and said, “Get your coat on we are going to the General Assembly Building.” Fear immediately struck me. What would I say to “those people?” What if they ask me a question I could not answer? At that point in my life I had been working with children for more than 20 years. Yet, I found myself wondering: what made me the expert? Since that time, I have found resources and had realizations.

Step One

First, do your research! That said, do not stress if research is not your thing. Virginia has a wonderful organization and resource right at your fingertips: Voices for Virginia’s Children (Voices). Voices pulls together many different partners to examine the areas of focus. They also distribute the information in a clear and understandable fashion. Further, Voices gathers together possible changes to laws and puts them in one place so they are easily referenced. Once you have done your research you can create your platform.

Step Two

Second, you need a road map for your platform. Remember you don’t have to know everything. You do need to know why your platform is important and the important information you want to deliver. If you don’t have a road map it is easy to get side tracked. There are many different needs of early care and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the challenges. Practice and become familiar with your focus area. But remember, our representatives don’t have a lot of time to spare. Stick with the facts. It is important to know what you are supporting and stay focused on those points. In other words, keep it simple.

Step Three

Third, once you have found your focus or decided on which Bills you support, decide on how you will make your voice heard. This will depend on your passion and your personality. There are many different methods to get your voice heard. These methods include letters, emails, phone calls or even speaking in front of committees and representatives. If you are truly passionate about your platform, don’t be afraid to let your emotions and passion show. Remember to be genuine and respectful. It doesn’t matter which you choose, just get out and be a voice for children. Most importantly, speak from you heart.

Ways you can increase your knowledge on advocating:

  • Chamber RVA offers Politics 101 for individuals that want a better understanding about how state and local politics work. This helped me gain a better understanding of who represented me and how things work.
  • Look at tool kits that have been created by state organizations. Many of them have sample letters or emails to write to your representatives. They even have talking tips for face-to-face conversations. Voices has a great kit here and Child Care Aware has one here.
  • And finally, become familiar with the schedule of events planned for your area.
    • 1/3/17- 115th US Congress begins
    • 1/4/17- Regional budget hearings in Abingdon, Annandale, Newport News and Richmond.
    • 1/11/17- Virginia General Assembly begins
    • 1/16/17- VAECE Capitol Steps at the GA
    • 1/24/17 – Early Care Advocacy Day
    • 1/25/17- Mental Health Advocacy Day
    • 1/30/17- Trauma Informed Networks Advocacy Day
    • 2/28/17- Virginia General Assembly ends

What are my top two areas of support for 2017?

In 2017 ChildSavers and I support:

  • Local zoning impact on Early Care and Education
  • Continued support for national fingerprint background checks for all those who care for children.

Follow ChildSavers on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on what is happening throughout the General Assembly. Contact us if you would like to participate in one of the advocacy days.

By Janet Burke, Director of Child Development Services

Janet Burke is the Child Development Services Program Manager for ChildSavers. She manages six core programs: Child Care Aware of Central Virginia, Child Development Training, Child Development Associate Certificate Program, Virginia Quality Central Region, Voluntary Registration for the Central Region, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. 

Janet joined ChildSavers in 1992 where she has worked as a trainer, supervisor, coordinator, and program manager. She has been a Master Rater and Master Trainer for Virginia’s Quality and Rating Improvement System since 2007. Janet has 36 years of experience of working in early care and with early care professionals. She also has a Certificate in Early Childhood and a Certificate in Supervisory and Leadership. Janet has taken many other child development and business classes over the years. This includes being trained by the authors for CLASS, Environmental Rating Scale, Here, Now and Down the Road, MyTeachingPartner and DECA. She holds current certifications as a CLASS Observer, CLASS Trainer, and reliable in Environmental Rating Scale.      

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