Last week we hosted a special Training for Citizen Advocates on Children’s Issues. So often at SCAN we work directly with individual children and families, but we also take time to focus on state-wide issues impacting thousands of families in our region. Along with Prevent Child Abuse VirginiaVoices for Virginia’s Children and The Commonwealth Institute we hosted elected officials Sen. Barbara Favola (a SCAN Honorary Board Member), Del. Charniele Herring and Del. Dave Albo (see a photo of our guests at the bottom of this post!)  The day included a basic advocacy training and policy briefing, as well as a legislative briefing for the more than 50 participants learning how to best make their voices heard on behalf of children and families.

(The press was there, too! Read more about the training in the West End Alexandria Patch here.)

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So many of our friends and supporters ask us how their voices can be heard as they speak up for children in our community. Here are three basic steps based on what we learned at the training to get you started:

1. Get educated. We’re especially interested in Medicaid Expansion in Virginia and what it means for children and families. Whatever the topic, learn as much as you can and be a resource for your community and local legislators. The Commonwealth Institute has great information on Medicaid Expansion here.

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2. Go to Richmond. On January 23rd, SCAN staff and volunteers with our CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program will head to the General Assembly in Richmond for our annual Advocacy Day. Want to join us? Meet your legislators? Discuss children’s issues? Contact us for more information.

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3. Contact your legislators. You may hear it all the time, but one of the elected officials at our training said that if their office receives just FIVE LETTERS on a particular subject, then it’s important enough to take more time on that issue. FIVE LETTERS! What an empowering piece of information! Our Virginia legislators cover so many issues in a given year, and they rely on constituents to voice their concerns and help them focus on the most critical topics. Find out who your legislators are here.

It’s so important that we KEEP TALKING. So, how do you advocate for children and families? What issues are most important to you and your community as we head into the 2013 legislative session? Let us know in the comments section below.

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