Building Advocates in Montana

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Last week, Nick Vucic, Government Affairs Associate, and Sara Miller, Communications and Public Affairs Specialist, flew across the country for a trip to Helena, Montana for a two-day on-site advocacy training.    collage 1 (1)

The training began with some ice breakers and an overview of advocacy vs. lobbying followed up with a couple of hours of updates from the federal level. The team talked about CCDBG, the Proposed Rule from HHS, the Government Shutdown, Sequester, and more. After many questions and answers, the room moved into breakout groups to discuss goals and barriers the state of Montana is facing in the early childhood community.

Each group then presented their goals and barriers and the group ended the day playing a rousing version of Advocacy Jeopardy.

The following morning, the training started earlier than planned and with coffee in hand, for another day of learning about advocacy.

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Sara led everyone through the Child Care Aware® of America website pointing out resources and ways that the organization is here to help members in the states and parent engagement, which was a great way to transition into a discussion about social media.

We discussed FacebookTwitterPinterest, and how to make all forms of social media help advocacy efforts. There were a few questions and then we moved into the final portion of the day: takeaways and next steps.

We were excited to see that many advocates in Montana were excited to learn about all of the great movement going on at the federal level and to gain more knowledge about making social media work for them.

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Click here to read about our advocacy trips to New Jersey, Florida and Delaware.

New Jersey Advocacy Training

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Last week, members of the Child Care Aware® of America Policy and Communications teams hopped in the car bright and early for a trip to West Windsor, NJ for a two-day on-site advocacy training. The team consisted of Jasmine Smith, Senior Policy Advisor; Nick Vucic, Government Affairs Associate; and Sara Miller, Communications and Public Affairs Specialist.

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The team made the trip in about three hours when they arrived at the boathouse marina

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The training room was overlooking the water and could not have been a prettier view.

The training began with some ice breakers and an overview of advocacy vs. lobbying followed up with a couple of hours of updates from the federal level. The team talked about CCDBG, the Proposed Rule from HHS, The Affordable Care Act and more. After many questions and answers, the room moved into breakout groups to discuss goals and barriers the state of New Jersey is facing in the early learning sector.

Each group then presented their goals and barriers and the group ended the day thinking of ways to take everything to the next level during the following day of training.

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The next morning, the group arrived early, with coffee in hand, for another day of learning about advocacy. The day kicked off with a quick recap of federal updates for those not in attendance on day one. Then Jasmine led everyone through the Child Care Aware® of America website pointing out resources and ways that the organization is here to help members in the states.

Following that, Michelle McCready, Senior State Policy Advisor, joined by phone to share information about state advocacy days and parent engagement, which was a great way to transition into a discussion about social media. We discussed Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and how to make all forms of social media help advocacy efforts. There were a few questions and then we moved into the final portion of the day: takeaways and next steps.

We were excited to see that many advocates in New Jersey were excited to learn about all of the great movement going on at the federal level and to gain more knowledge about making social media work for them.

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Want to know more about our onsite trainings this year? Read about our advocacy trips to Florida and Delaware.

5 Tips for Recess SUCCESS!

It’s that time of year again–August recess! Congress has adjourned for the month of August and will not be back in session until September 9. During their month-long recess, many Members take the opportunity to re-engage with their community and the constituents they serve. This is a perfect opportunity for you to foster and cultivate those very important relationships with your Senators and Representative, as well as their key staff. You want them to know who you are and what issues you care about –early learning, child care, resource and referral services, etc., and how those issues are affecting your local community and your state.

In order to ensure you get the most out of your elected officials this August, we put together our top 5 tips for recess success:

1. Schedule a visit/meeting.  Go to our congressional directory to look up the contact information for your Member’s district office(s).  Call the office or send an email requesting a meeting, and be sure to briefly mention the purpose of the meeting.

2. Do your research before your meeting.  You can make the most of your meeting time by being prepared and knowing your audience.  Learn about your Member of Congress: is she/he a Democrat or a Republican? Is your Member on Facebook or Twitter? What committees is she/he on? Do those committees work on child care issues?  You should also know whether the Member supports an increased investment in child care and early learning (and has voted accordingly). Visit the Core Issues page to get background on the issues.

capitolnick3. Invite your elected officials to your child care program. Reach out to district staff or ask during a meeting with staff or your Member if they would like to visit your child care program: if you’re representing a child care resource and referral agency, you may have a recommendation of a place to visit. This is a great way for Members to connect what you do with what children need, and why investments in child care and early learning programs are so important. Members and their staff get a firsthand look at why quality child care is a necessity for any thriving community.

4. Attend scheduled town halls. Another great way to engage with your elected officials during recess is to attend a town hall meeting (or two!).  Check your policymaker’s website to find out the date and location of any upcoming town hall meetings. In preparation for the meeting, write down–at most–two questions: you will not have a lot of time so make sure your questions are specific and straight to the point.  Read our town hall tips sheet for more information.

5. Follow up. If you were able to get a meeting, attend a town hall, and/or host a Member at your early learning program, send a thank you note to your Member and their staff.  Thank them for taking the time out to meet with you/have the town hall meeting/visit your program, and gently remind them why they should continue to support child care. Be sure to follow up on any requests you made at the meeting as well as any information they may have asked for.  A few words of appreciation will have a lasting impact on your relationship with your elected officials and your long term advocacy efforts.

Good luck and keep us posted on how your recess efforts are going.  Let us know how we can help. We have plenty of one pagers, background information and talking points to help you with your recess SUCCESS!

Florida On-Site Advocacy

Earlier this week, members of the Child Care Aware® of America Policy Team jumped ontampa a plane and went to Tampa for a one-day on-site Advocacy Training. They worked closely with the Children’s Forum in Tallahassee to put together a jam-packed agenda for each of the 60 attendees at the training.

The morning started off bright and early with an ice-breaker session where each attendee went around stating their name, organization and the name and location of their elementary school. Everyone in the room was quickly flooded with memories of early learning and the opportunity to better the quality of early education for today’s children.

Following the first session, the team jumped into the meaty information. There was a brief lay of the land presented by Phyllis Kalifeh of the Children’s Forum and Ted Granger from United Way. This was followed up by a presentation and conversation related to advocacy versus lobbying. Great discussion was had about where the line is drawn and how far organizations can go on the advocacy front.

At 10am, Shannon Rudisill, Director, Office of Child Care called into the training and gave a real-time overview of the new HHS Proposed Rule. We then discussed the new CCDBG bill, the President’s Early Learning Agenda and how Florida can weigh in on each of these opportunities.

The morning session wrapped up with a breakout where each team of 6-8 discussed current challenges, what they would do if they had a magic wand and what the reality looks like in the state of Florida.

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After the breakout groups posted their ideas on the wall, the team began working on state advocacy over lunch. While enjoying salads, each attendee learned about parent and child care provider engagement and how to build a state advocacy day in the state of Florida. The discussion then jumped into how crucial social media is in today’s advocacy world, inspiring many attendees to jump on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

The day then wrapped up with a final breakout and team presentation of each group’s roadmap for the future. Each attendee then went around the room sharing takeaways, bright ideas, next steps and new information learned from peers. One idea learned during the session was to always bring someone to a training with you as you never know who will attend and become an early childhood advocate. One attendee even brought the mayor’s wife!

Overall, the day was full of information, resource sharing and network building. Everyone left the training with a renewed passion, ready to improve the quality of child care in the state of Florida.

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Photo courtesy of The Children’s Forum

Read about our on-site training in Delaware here.