Legislative advocacy and public policy work led by parent advocates often grows from their individual work with parents. That’s because parent advocates on the ground often know more about what is and isn’t working for parents than almost anyone else. They also know what parents in their communities would need to help their families thrive and keep child welfare systems out of their lives all together.
Effective legislative advocacy and public policy work requires parent advocates who understand more than what needs to change. To effectively change laws, parent advocates also need to know how to increase public awareness of the need for change; how to draft legislation that reflects parents’ experiences; and how to build consensus among legislators and allies.
Proposed Federal Legislation to Extend Reunification Timeline During COVID-19, The United States
Recognizing the impact of the pandemic on families and the child welfare system, in the United States, Representative Gwen Moore has proposed legislation to extend federal timelines for reunification without financial penalties to states. Representative Moore is a member of Congress representing the greater Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, and is also a parent impacted by the child welfare system.
- Rise: Proposed Federal Legislation Would Suspend the ASFA Timeline, Not Parental Rights, During COVID-19
- Community Legal Services of Philadelphia: CLS Supports H.R. 7976 to #StopTheClock and Help Families Reunify During the COVID-19 Crisis
Together Parents Can Change Policy, The United States
Washington State Parent Ally Committee (WPAC), Washington
The Washington State Parent Ally Committee (WPAC) brings parent advocates from across Washington together to share the pressing issues they see on the ground and then to work toward passage of legislative change.
As the parent lead of WPAC for many years, Alise Morrissey understood that collaboration was key to the passage of many important pieces of legislation, including a bill about background checks that made it easier to place children with relatives; a bill that funded parent advocacy statewide; and a bill that gave incarcerated parents more time to reunify with their children.
Morrissey still believes in the power of legislative advocacy, but today, she says, she would like to see parent advocates push for more fundamental change to support families outside the child welfare system:
“During the years I spent as advocacy lead for the Washington State Parent Ally Committee (WPAC), what I thought we needed was to flip child welfare upside its head, and have it be a place where families could call and get assistance….My vision changed when I became pregnant with my second child and I asked myself, ‘If I needed help, would I call 1-866-END-HARM to get that?’ And my answer was ‘Absolutely not.’ Today I think we need to use those same policy advocacy tools to build something new so that communities in need are not exposed to further adversity, fear and trauma.”
Read the interview with Alise Morrissey, Washington State.
Read materials Parents for Parents developed to help incarcerated parents stay connected to their children, as well as a presentation that shows how they used that work to write and pass legislation that gave incarcerated parents more time to reunify with their children:
- You Don’t Have to Stop Being a Parent While You are Incarcerated
- You Don’t Have to Stop Being a Mother While You are Incarcerated
- Tips for Incarcerated Parents, Tips for Incarcerated Mothers, and Tips for Incarcerated Fathers
- SHB1284 Guide: Preventing Termination of Parental Rights for Incarcerated Parents
Storytelling for Public Policy Change, The United States
SPAN Parent Advocacy Network, New Jersey
SPAN provides information, resources, support, and advocacy assistance to families, professionals, policy makers, and colleagues. Their foremost commitment is to those with greatest need, including those impacted by involvement in the foster care, child welfare, or juvenile justice systems.
According to SPAN, “The voices and stories of parents can have a significant impact on public policy changes that improve services to and outcomes for children and families.” SPAN’s “Telling Your Story for a Public Policy Purpose” form and guide and workbook were created to help parents tell your story effectively and with an impact.
SPAN also developed Public Policy Advocacy: A Grassroots Guide to help you strengthen your individual and group capacity to engage in effective public policy advocacy to make our society more just.