With the 2018 General Assembly Session just a month away, it’s a critical time for advocates to start speaking up for children and families in Northern Virginia. We recently hosted our 6th Annual “Speak Up for Children” Advocacy Day to help community members prepare. With generous support from Verizon, we welcomed Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and Voices for Virginia’s Children to help guide a day-long discussion of advocacy tactics, legislative updates and policy priorities for the year ahead.
PCAV’s Johanna Schuchert kicked off the training with an “Advocacy 101” segment – covering how the legislative process works and how to make sure your voice is heard during the process.
1. Download these helpful “Educating Your Legislators” Tips from PCAV.
It was especially helpful to hear directly from legislators and staff – including Del. David Bulova, Delegate Mark Levine’s Chief of Staff Steven Marku, and Senator Jennifer Wexton – that they desperately want to hear from human service providers who are familiar with and passionate about current issues, including sexual misconduct in schools, substance-exposed infants and Erin’s Law.
“It’s so important for you to react to the issues that matter to you,” noted Del. Bulova. “Legislators are busy. We rely on you to inform us and work with us to make the best decisions.”
2. Find your legislator here.
Part of advocacy is being aware of the scope of problems in the community. Voices’ Mary Beth Testa offered an excellent “State of the Child” presentation. She provided links to statistics—including the fact that 19% of children in Virginia have experienced 2+ traumatic experiences—that can also be found here.
3. Take Mary Beth’s action steps this month:
a. Call your Senators about reauthorizing #CHIP.
b. Sign the statement supporting Fairfax County’s effort to be a trauma-informed community.
c. Join Voices for a call on 12/19 to review governor’s budget proposal (more info below.)
NBC4 investigative reporter Scott MacFarlane and producer Rick Yarborough also joined the discussion to share their work covering sexual misconduct in local schools, with excellent insight from expert Dr. Charol Shakeshaft from Virginia Commonwealth University.
4. Watch Scott’s NBC4 investigative report here.
“The most important thing we can do to prevent child sexual abuse in schools is training,” noted Dr. Shakeshaft, “particularly boundary training to let adults know what it means to cross a line with a student, how it happens, and how to see it.”
5. Consider having SCAN provide child sexual abuse prevention training through our partnership with Darkness to Light. Learn more here.
Advocacy Day ended with a focus on substance exposed infants and legislative issues related to the crisis. Thanks to panel members from Inova Hospital, Fairfax County DFS, Loudoun MHSADS and the Fairfax Falls Church CSB, attendees (and legislators) left with both sobering statistics and renewed energy to take action on the issue.
“We are vastly underestimating the problem – and the impact – of substance exposed infants. It’s not just about substances passed on during pregnancy—it’s a question of ACEs, trauma and continued effects after bringing baby home.”
6. Learn more about the Voices Legislative Agenda – including substance exposed infants and trauma – in their webinar on Tuesday, December 19th at 1:00 PM. Simply bookmark THIS LINK and join the discussion next week!