Advocacy: State Level Advocacy
Legislative Action Center(off-site)
Vision: The statewide system has a strategy to advocate and secure sustainable funding for HFA/home visiting.
Advocacy means giving voice to an interest or need. Activities include educating community leaders on your issue, lobbying for specific legislative proposals, commenting on proposed regulations, and meeting with editorial boards, to name a few. The target of your advocacy campaign will depend on your goal. You can choose to focus on a local community, a county, a state, and/or the federal government. The most successful advocacy campaigns recognize the interconnected layers where influence can be made, and effectively use the voices of staff, families, child advocates, community leaders, and others who share a common vision.
Advocacy can influence not only funding for programs (appropriations), but also decisions impacting how services are structured and delivered. You will likely find that your immediate advocacy efforts will focus on sustaining HFA and home visitation in your state through increasing direct funding and authorizing home visitation as an allowable use of funding within federal and state programs. However, there are larger aims that you will address as well, such as: educating lawmakers about prevention and where it falls within the spectrum of service provision; helping build awareness of the varied resources needed to support young families; and giving voice to those parents who have been benefited along with their children from Healthy Families America in your state.Examples of successful advocacy strategies employed by state systems include:
Advocacy and Public Policy. Public policy work sets forth recommendations to address specific needs while advocacy serves as the vehicle through which public policy can be influenced.. Neither can function successfully without the other. Ideally, a state system is involved in both arenas and can facilitate the exchange of information to create the best program outcomes.
State Systems Framework Guidelines for Public Policy/Advocacy1. Designate personnel to implement/lead all legislative and advocacy efforts.
To effectively incorporate and institutionalize advocacy within the state system, the necessary infrastructure is needed. Leadership, consistency, relationship-building, and motivation are essential. Similarly, strategic planning for advocacy activities, events planning, and materials development are all critical. HFA state systems have found that having consistent staff resources is the best means to increase the efficacy of advocacy efforts.
State systems with limited personnel and/or resources should, at minimum, identify a key advocacy liaison responsible for communication among all parties working on advocacy efforts. In some instances, an advocacy committee has been formed where formal staff functions have not been available to completely address advocacy needs. External resources can then be employed to supplement the work, such as working with existing state-level child advocacy coalitions, the PCA America chapter, the local Voices for Americaís Children member, or the state Childrenís Trust Fund. These organizations offer expertise and training resources to bolster the skills of your personnel.
Some state systems have also utilized lobbyists, either as paid staff/consultants or enlisted on a pro bono basis. Lobbyists can be useful due to their contacts and knowledge of the policy process, and their ability to consistently monitor interest in your issues and the politics involved in key decision-making.
2. Establish an organized, broad-based coalition of agencies, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders to develop and implement strategies to support HFA/home visiting.
Supporting the varied needs of young families takes concerted effort and coordination among service providers. Coalitions can serve as a vehicle for proactive messaging about the value of prevention. Through building broad public support for an issue, as opposed to sole voices fighting to be heard, more impact can be accomplished. Ensuring a continuum of services, speaking with a unified voice, capitalizing on strengths and reducing duplication are at the heart of effective coalitions.
Case Study in Coalition Building: Massachusetts Citizens for Children3. Establish a communications system to alert and invite all sites and supporters to participate in legislative efforts/activities (could be cross-over with communications).
Effective advocacy involves reaching a wide audience, being inclusive, and mobilizing quickly. To do this communications systems such as phone trees, email listservs for legislative alerts, newsletters and websites are all very effective tools. When immediate mobilization is needed, existing communications networks can spread the word quickly. Keep in mind that, while your state legislature may only meet at certain times, members of Congress are active throughout the year, even when on recess. Therefore, it is imperative that communications systems are year-round and consistent.
4. Develop strategies and materials to educate legislators and other key decision-makers about HFA/home visiting on an on-going basis (could be cross-over with PR and public awareness).
Strategies to educate decision-makers should be developed with a consistent, year-round message in mind. This could be viewed as a two-tiered strategy:
Tier One: Immediate messaging5. Develop relationships with key decision-makers.
The success you achieve with families largely stems from engagement and relationship-building. The same is true of your advocacy efforts. Maximizing opportunities to meet with decision-makers improves your access to resources and inclusion at the table when key priorities are being established. Challenge yourself to think beyond your state level legislators. Key decision-makers also include:
Case Example in Relationship Building: Healthy Families Virginia (HFVA)6. Develop a system to collect data on how all sites are funded (state, local, public and private sources).
In order to advocate for funding, data is needed to identify trends in funding, current funding levels and costs associated with implementing and running HFA statewide. Additionally, evidence is often needed when presenting the economic argument that an investment in prevention pays for itself in the long run.
State systems frequently monitor funding from the central source that distributes funding to the sites. Other mechanisms include surveying sites or staying in frequent contact with program managers to track their sources of funding, budgets, and average cost per family.
State systems are asked to report their funding information to the national office via periodic surveys. They are also asked to encourage sites to complete and return the annual site profile, which collects program level data. This valuable data assists Healthy Families America in identifying those funding sources and strategies that are most successful for the network. Technical assistance for sustainability of the network is provided based on these trends and legislation impacting major funding for home visitation.
7. Plan and lead the development of long-term sustainable revenue for sites.
As the infrastructure for the sites in your state, the state system is responsible for developing a sustainable funding plan that includes:
Healthy Families Arizona (HFAz) participates in a group of service providers and advocacy groups to advise a Children's Caucus within the Arizona state legislature. In January 2003, a bipartisan group of Arizona House and Senate members announced the formation of the caucus, the primary aim of which is to protect state funding for children and families. The Chairman's original budget proposal called for the elimination of HFAz. By working closely with those state representatives on the caucus, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona and the HFAz state system, their agenda included prevention as a priority. They further informed the caucus as they wrote letters and op-ed pieces to advocate that the appropriations process be opened up to allow members of the House and Senate to be involved in the broader policy debate that determines budget priorities. Their consistent contact with representatives and willingness to collaborate gave Healthy Families Arizona the opportunity to impact advocacy for the broader needs of children throughout the state. This largely impacted the new Governor's strong support for Healthy Families and inclusion in the revised budget.
Healthy Families Indiana embarked on an initiative to register site staff and participating families to vote. Momentum created during the 2003 PCA America Leadership Conference spurred Phyllis Kikendall, Director of Healthy Families Indiana, to return to her state and begin an extensive plan to involve staff and families served with the aim of 1) increasing their understanding of the political process and 2) how their voices can help impact this process. After talking with her administrative office to clearly define the parameters associated with such a campaign, Ms. Kikendall received the approval to begin a "Civics 101" campaign throughout sites in Indiana, with the aim of offering each parent served the opportunity to vote. This creative mobilization effort has received strong support state-wide.
Healthy Families Illinois sets a strong example for the sites in their state through their Advocacy and Policy Committee, which meets monthly. Representatives from sites, the state's child advocacy group, state employees, and policy analysts help the sites mobilize around predicted budget cuts, identify gaps in service provision and link the work of Healthy Families with larger statewide services. As a result, one county has successfully integrated over seven service organizations through a coordinated referral and intake process. Sites in Illinois have also gained particular strength in organizing their own advocacy committees with staff, parent and local official representation. The Healthy Families Peoria site has developed a mentoring system, pairing all new staff with a more experienced advocate. Recently, the strength of Peoria's advocacy mobilization enabled national staff to garner the support of their Congressman, Representative Ray LaHood.
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