First Steps to Being An Advocate for Kids at the State Legislature

So you care about kids in foster care. You have stepped up to be a foster parent, an adoptive parent or a volunteer.  But, you are confused about state laws or funding restraints that impact these children and you want to make an impact on a larger scale. You ask yourself, how can I be an effective systems advocate?   It’s easier than you think –your votes and your voice are the most effective tools to make a difference!

Here’s some steps you can take to begin to impact the state policies that are in place! 

What’s the Best Way to Be Heard???    VOTE!    

It is extremely important to vote for three state legislators who will be running for office from the district where you live – that is, two Representatives and one Senator.

  • If you don’t know your legislative district, check out
  • Register to vote and be an informed voter.  To register, see
  • You can select to vote by mail.  There will be deadlines established to request mail-in ballots for each election or you can also select to be on the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL).
  • Know your candidates and what they stand for – it’s important to build a relationship with the candidates and those who win their elections
    • Find out who is running for the state legislature from your district at   Candidates have until May 30, 2018 to file their petitions so not all candidates will be listed until after this date
    • Check each candidate’s history and their websites.
    • Meet them – district meetings, forums, debates, door-to-door.
    • Introduce yourself, build a relationship, share your experiences.
  • Support those you like, and if you are able and willing,
    • Donate to their campaigns – every little bit helps, and/or
    • Work for their campaign
  • VOTE!!!  Legislators have won or lost by one vote or by a coin toss if there’s a tie! Your one vote can make a difference!

Don’t Skip the Primary Election – VOTE! 

  • Because most state legislative districts have a majority party registration, the winners of the General Election are actually determined by the Primary Election results.
  • For state primary elections, voters registered as Independents can and should vote.  You can select in which party you want to vote.
  • You must register to vote for the Primary Election by July 30, 2018.
  • The Primary Election is August 28, 2018.

Vote in the General Election, too

  • You must register to vote General Election by October 9, 2018.
  • The General Election is November 6, 2018.

A Few Advocacy Tips for Meeting Candidates or Legislators

  • Remember candidates and legislators are generalists – business people, lawyers, retirees, homemakers, etc. – usually not experts about kids in foster care.
  • When sharing your perspective with a candidate or legislator:
  • Be gracious and polite
  • Be timely and concise – to the point
  • Be honest, don’t exaggerate.  If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so and get back with the information if you can
  • Be constructive
  • Be realistic recognizing that politics are the art of compromise
  • Be informed
  • Be patient
  • Always thank the candidate or legislator for their time

Once you form a relationship with a candidate, if they get elected, they will know you and generally will be responsive to your requests and perspective.  If they agree with you, great!  And even if they don’t always agree with you, at least they will listen!    

Beth Rosenberg

Director of Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice, Children’s Action Alliance

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(o) 602.266.0707 x206

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