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“Advocacy is giving a voice to children and families.”- Christie Marra, Virginia Poverty Law Center

12182791_10153291169835735_4258584389047997579_oOn Tuesday, November 17th, in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia, SCAN invited individuals from across Northern Virginia to participate in its 4th annual Stand Up for Children Advocacy Day. (#standupforchildren)

Participants in this year’s training spent the morning with Christie Marra from the Virginia Poverty Law Center in the Be Heard Advocacy Seminar, where they learned advocacy basics and how to navigate the Virginia Legislature to become stronger voices for Virginia’s children and families.

Delegate David Bulova joined us this year to provide a case study on how he was able to advocate for the successful passage of the Safe Sleep for Infants Act (HB1515). He provided many insights for the participants on how to persevere in the process, and the importance of making your advocacy personal “so that legislators can relate and remember.”

Del Bulova also empowered advocates: “Bills often take more than one try. Learn from experience and know the value of your advocacy.”

In the afternoon Christie Marra was joined by Amy Woolard from Voices for Virginia’s Children and Kendra Kielbasa from Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William County for our policy panel discussion. During the panel, participants had the opportunity to learn and discuss the upcoming legislative agenda items surrounding Kinship Diversion, Youth in Foster Care aging out of the system, and the Virginia Preschool Initiative.

Following the policy panel we welcomed Northern Virginia legislators to provide more insight on their goals for children and families in the upcoming 2016 General Assembly. Joining us on the panel was Senator George Barker, Del. Alfonso Lopez, Delegate Dave Albo, Delegate-Elect Mark Levine, and Delegate-Elect Paul Krizek.

IMG_0274Participants were very active in voicing their questions and concerns for the upcoming year, and one noted that they “loved the legislative panel at the end, that it was very engaging!” The legislators took great interest in the topics being discussed and engaged participants to learn more about the critical issues children face in Virginia. Del. Albo, Del.-Elect Levine, and Senator Barker even took the opportunity to express interest in working with one another to sponsor a bill regarding Kinship Diversion , showing the strength of collaboration.

This concept of collaboration was a recurring theme noticed throughout the day. Delegate Bulova noted that legislators love “peace in the valley” – when stakeholders work together ahead of time on an issueCollaboration is something that advocates should constantly be striving for, noted Marra: “There is power in numbers.”

So how can you be a stronger voice for children and families?

  1. Know your legislator. Use the “Who’s my Legislator” tool at http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/.
  2. Be engaged, passionate, and knowledgeable. As service providers you see how policies adversely affect your clients every day, and have knowledge about what will work. As Del. Bulova said “Be sure to know the WHY, and be specific with the HOW.”
  3. Collaborate! Facilitate connections with other advocates in your network. If you are nervous about being heard, then make your voice louder by speaking up with others.
  4. Follow SCAN’s Connections blog to stay up to date on current issues and trends affecting Northern Virginia’s children and families.

— Sydna Cooper, SCAN MSW Intern

IMG_7935Children’s issues are proving to be a major concern for The Virginia General Assembly 2015 session, which convened on January 14th. Over 150 pieces of legislation related to children and family issues have been introduced, and SCAN’s Legislative & Advocacy Committee is reviewing these bills and will follow them as they move through the legislative process. Kerry Desjardins, SCAN’s Master of Social Work intern, attended the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success meeting in Richmond last Thursday. Each council subcommittee presented the top children’s issues they plan to address, many of which are in line with the most popular children’s issues being considered by the legislature. Here are a few of the issues on which SCAN is currently focusing:

 

Child care safety

This past August, The Washington Post published a two-part article on the lack of oversight of home-based day care in Virginia, raising greater awareness to long-held concerns.  As a result, Virginia lawmakers have introduced over a dozen pieces of legislation related to child care safety, including bills addressing whether or not a family day home provider’s own children should count toward the threshold requiring licensure, basic safety requirements such as smoke detectors and CPR training, and mandatory reporting to the Department of Social Services of intent to operate a family day home.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

HB 1517  /  HB 1552  /  HB 1570  /  HB 1929  /  HB 1931  /  HB 2023  /  HB 2046  /  HB 2069

SB 780  /  SB 818  /  SB 844  /  SB 898  /  SB 1029  /  SB 1055  /  SB 1069  /  SB 1123  /  SB 1124  /  SB 1168

 

Infant safe-sleeping

SCAN is also following House Bill 1515, legislation that would require hospitals to give maternity patients information about safe sleeping environments for infants. SCAN has worked to educate parents about safe sleep environments for infants for some time now, and is pleased to see lawmakers showing concern for the issue. SCAN supports the intent of this legislation and the positive impact it could have on children and parents.

Click on the following link to track related bills:

HB 1515

 

Protecting children from abuse

There are currently over two dozen bills that aim to prevent and protect children from physical and sexual abuse. These bills range from new and harsher penalties for perpetrators of child abuse, creating a supplement to the Sex Offenders and Crimes Against Minors Registry, requiring that mandated reporters complete training on how to recognize and report suspected child abuse or neglect, and creating new felonies for perpetrators of child trafficking, and more.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

HB 1353  /  HB 1441  /  HB 1505  /  HB 1526  /  HB 1527  /  HB 1533  /  HB 1884  /  HB 1954  /  HB 1964  /  HB 2007  /  HB 2040  /  HB 2092  /  HB 2138

SB 710  /  SB 911  /  SB 914  /  SB 918  /  SB 934  /  SB 976  /  SB 1056  /  SB 1057  /  SB 1074  /  SB 1094  /  SB 1117  /  SB 1138  /  SB 1170  /  SB 1188  /  SB 1213  /  SB 1253

 

Virginia’s budget

IMG_2287In December, Governor McAuliffe presented his proposed amendments to Virginia’s fiscal plan. During the 2015 session members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee will consider the governor’s propositions as they prepare their own budget bills. The governor’s proposed changes include severe cuts in funding for several programs and services that are critical to at-risk children and families. It is a small part of his attempt at working towards a more balanced budget. SCAN is deeply concerned about the impact those cuts would have on Virginia’s most vulnerable children, and is advocating for Virginia legislators to find alternative ways of achieving a more balanced budget.

 

During the current session, child safety and well-being appears to be a top priority for members of Virginia’s General Assembly. There is great potential for achieving some critical policy changes related to children, but we must act fast. The General Assembly will adjourn in a matter of weeks. As advocates for children we must take full advantage of this short opportunity to influence policies that impact children and families. SCAN will continue to provide periodic updates on the status of such policies. To learn more about how to advocate for children and families, we encourage you to:

This week we welcome Senator Barbara Favola to the blog! A longtime supporter of our issues and a SCAN Honorary Board Member, we’re thrilled that she’s giving us an important update following the end of Virginia’s legislation session last month.

Dear Friends,

The 2013 General Assembly legislative session ended last week and it was a whirlwind.  Senate Democrats held together and got a commitment from Governor McDonnell to participate in the Medicaid Expansion Program after certain reforms are in place.

Expanding Medicaid would enable up to 400,000 working Virginians gain access to health care coverage and this expansion would also create some 30,000 jobs.

The Governor’s commitment in this area helped me and 16 other Democrats vote for a comprehensive Transportation Funding Plan that wasn’t perfect but it was good.

Two of my foster care bills are on their way to the Governor’s desk.  One of these bills enables foster youth between the ages of 18 and 21 who are released from the Department of Juvenile Justice to access Independent Living Services.  The other is a joint resolution that directs the Department of Social Services to conduct a study on foster care and adoption assistance payments for individuals up to 21 years of age.  Federal dollars are available to fund extended subsidies but Virginia is not accessing these dollars.

Thank you for the advocacy that many of you demonstrated in support of my legislative efforts to protect children and families.  I look forward to providing you with periodic updates on Virginia’s participation in the Medicaid Expansion program.

Sincerely,

Barbara Favola
Senate of Virginia
31st District
About Senator Favola:                       

Senator Barbara A. Favola represents Virginia’s 31st district, which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties, and a portion of Loudoun County.

She served on the Arlington County Board for fourteen years (1997-2011) and chaired that body three times.  During her service with the County, Senator Favola was the Board’s leading advocate for children, youth and families, and her contributions to the community include establishing mental health services in the public schools.

Throughout her public life she has been a vigorous supporter of universal human rights.

In the Virginia Senate, Barbara is focusing her legislative efforts on public safety, women’s reproductive rights, health care expansion, K-12 education funding, social services, foster children and domestic violence issues.  She is also dedicated to environmental stewardship and maintaining the ban on uranium mining.  Senator Favola serves on Virginia’s Senate Local Government Committee, Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee, and Transportation Committee. She is now the Chair of the Women’s Reproductive Health Caucus. 

In 2012, Senator Favola was given a 100% rating from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia for her efforts during the legislative session to support the environment and women’s rights, respectively.  She also received the Virginia Peters Nonprofit Friend of the Year Award from the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND).  Senator Favola was appointed to the Executive Board of the Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL (National Conference of State Legislators) as the Democratic Representative for the Southern Region.

Senator Favola and her husband Douglas Weik have been residents of Arlington and the 31st district since 1982. Their son, Donald P. Weik, is a senior at George Mason University.

http://www.barbarafavola.org/ 

 

 

 

Today’s guest blogger is Christine Calpin, a member of SCAN’s Board of Directors and Chair of its Legislative & Advocacy Committee. With SCAN’s most ambitious year of advocacy ahead of us, she shares valuable updates on our policy agenda as well as ways SCAN supporters can learn more and stay involved in 2013.

blogblock_advocacyJan2013It’s nice to know these days that there are issues that Congress and the President can agree on – and those issues impact our most vulnerable children.

Earlier this month, the President signed the Uninterrupted Scholars Act which ensures that caseworkers and others involved in advocating for youth in foster care have quick access to their education records.  Children in foster care are moved from home to home, and therefore school to school much more often than other children.  Luckily, there now will be fewer obstacles during this time to be sure they don’t fall behind in school.

The President also signed the Protect our Kids Act which creates a Commission to study data on child fatalities from abuse and neglect and offer recommendations on how to reduce these fatalities.  It’s estimated that every day, 4 children in this country die from abuse or neglect.  Even more distressing, many believe this number underreports the extent of these tragedies.  I know that I join many who hope this Commission offers critical answers to how we can better protect the children in our communities.

Despite this progress, more must be done and everyone must do their part to advocate for our children.  I am honored to be part of SCAN’s efforts to ensure that every child in Northern Virginia thrives and succeeds.  Our 2013 policy agenda highlights our biggest priority – that every child has the right to grow up in a safe, permanent home.  SCAN will advocate and educate for policies at the federal, state and local levels that:

  • support and nurture parents;
  • protect and support the healthy development of children; and
  • are aligned with family-centered practices.

I sincerely hope you join us in these efforts.

Not sure how to raise your voice?  You can find your VA state delegate and senator here. Let them know these policies are your priority as well.  And, be sure to stay in touch with SCAN (subscribe to our eNews here or follow us on Facebook here) to continue to learn about important ways you can help us make a difference.

~ Christine

Christine Calpin
Chair, Legislative & Advocacy Committee
SCAN Board of Directors

How can legislators vote FOR legislation to increase reports of child abuse and at the same time propose a budget that CUTS funding for the programs to serve those at-risk children?

Last week we blogged about talking WITH children. This week, we’re all about speaking up FOR children. Our board’s Legislative and Advocacy Committee is working hard to keep us up to date on some critical decisions being made at both the state and federal level impacting the children and families in OUR community. Here are the details and how YOU can help:

1. Urge the Virginia General Assembly to restore funding for Healthy Families and Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) in the state budget. At SCAN we work closely with these groups in Northern Virginia to coordinate outreach and support for children and families. On March 21st, the House will reconvene for a special session. CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY and tell them how critical you believe this work is.

2. Urge the Federal Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce and Justice to restore appropriated funding of $12 million for the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. For 10 years National CASA (with whom our Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program is affiliated) received $12 million in funding for the CASA program through the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Last year Congress reduced the funding to $4.5 million. And now, the Administration has proposed eliminating ALL funding for this vital program in FY 2013. A team of CASA representatives met with 40 congressional representatives last week and learned that there is a chance to restore full funding for this program provided enough congressional offices urge appropriators to do the right thing. But timing is critical. TELL THE SUBCOMMITTEE of your support for restoring the CASA program in appropriations.

3. Urge your federal elected representatives to protect Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding for crime victims and ensure that it is not diverted to other purposes: SCAN of Northern Virginia’s Board of Directors has signed on to a letter being presented by the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators (NAVAA) regarding the FY 13 VOCA budget. You can learn more at their website. CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND CONGRESSMEN to urge them to protect the VOCA funding. This funding forms the pool that SCAN’s CASA Program competes for and has provided approximately $50k for our CASA Program EACH YEAR in recent years.

Talking to your children about tough topics is not always easy. But speaking up FOR THEM is simple. Get in touch with your state and federal leaders TODAY to voice your concern about a budget balanced on the backs of children and families. SCAN and many other local organizations rely on this funding to protect children, educate parents and support families in Northern Virginia. And you can help us continue to make an impact.

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SCAN works to build hope for children and families in Northern Virginia. This blog brings child welfare professionals the current trends and valuable resources that will support their work to prevent child abuse and strengthen families in Northern Virginia and beyond.

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