government relations

Cutting Through the Noise: Advocating for our Kids during the Presidential Election

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

As a political junkie, I love presidential election years. I especially love years like this: where a few months ago there was no incumbent and wide-open races on both sides (depending on who you ask). These campaign cycles can also be incredibly frustrating. Candidates visit small towns where they would never otherwise set foot, eat state fair food, rub elbows with locals, and mug for photos. It all feels inauthentic. Fake. How can a long-serving U.S. senator really speak on behalf of working families? How can a billionaire relate to middle class workers? How can privileged white men and women relate to the plights of runaway youth? How can powerful people understand what it’s like to be homeless when they have never had to worry whether they will have a place to sleep, or a hot meal and shower waiting for them in the morning?

This is where we come in. As advocates, youth workers, execs leading youth and family-serving agencies, it’s up to us to make sure the needs of these young people and families are heard. We need to beat the drum to make sure affordable housing, funds for runaway and homeless youth programs, and affordable health care for young people are priorities for elected leaders at all levels of government – from city council to the President of the United States.

Here are some ideas for getting involved this election year:

  1. Host elected officials at your organization or shelter. Show them around and explain how you operate, what you need, and what it means to the young people you serve. This could include your city officials, state senators and representations, or US congress members. If you are in an early caucus or primary state, you may even be able to get a presidential candidate (see above comments).
  2. Write Letters to the Editor of your local papers. Highlight your programs and how proposed legislative changes (at all levels of government), will impact your agencies and the youth you service, for the better or worse.
  3. Communicate with your elected officials. Make phone calls. Email them. National officials track the number of calls and emails they receive on specific issues. State officials often do the same. It may not seems like they are listening, they are tracking!
  4. Encourage your staff to vote. Encourage young people to vote. Take young people to the primaries or election in November. Help them register. It’s their right.

However you get involved, don’t pass up this opportunity to make your voice heard and advocate on behalf of the young people we serve.

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The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives

Statement from Laurie Jackson, President/CEO of National Safe Place Network, on the introduction of the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act

“On behalf of National Safe Place Network members, licensed Safe Place agencies and runaway and homeless youth grantees, we are pleased this bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressmen John Yarmuth and Dave Reichert are working to advance needed updates to the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. These updates will provide more flexibility and resources for agencies serving runaway and homeless youth across the country.

We applaud the efforts of the Congressmen and the National Network for Youth and their partners for leading this reauthorization effort and championing the needs of runaway, homeless and vulnerable youth.”

National Network for Youth Press Release: Bipartisan Bill to Reauthorize RHYA Introduced in the House – April 15, 2015: https://www.nn4youth.org/press-releases/2015/04/15/rhytpahouseintroduction2015/

It’s Time to Protect Young Victims Where Protections Don’t Exist

By: Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director, Kentucky Youth Advocates

Imagine a kindergartner being fearful at home because he’s afraid his mom’s ex-boyfriend is going to show up at the door and hurt his mom like he said he would. Imagine a senior in high school who is a victim of stalking by her former boyfriend and doesn’t feel safe leaving a friend’s house to go home. Right now in Kentucky, these victims cannot seek immediate protections through protective orders.

Current Kentucky statute only allows protective orders for those who have been married to, lived with, or had a child with the offender. This leaves many people, including many teens without one of the most effective forms of protection from being exposed to or experiencing violence – protective orders. Research from the University of Kentucky shows protective orders work – victims that received a protective order reported a significant reduction in violence and fear of future harm.

This issue is among the legislative priorities of the 2015 Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children and supported by Kentucky Youth Advocates because of the protections it would offer to Kentucky children. Children who witness domestic violence are at increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, higher levels of aggression, and poor school performance. We can protect children from these negative experiences by keeping their parents safe.

Additionally, teens who experience dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking cannot currently seek protective orders. This is true despite a recent survey of Kentucky high school students finding nearly one in ten had experienced physical dating violence within the past year, and one in ten experienced sexual dating violence.

New data from the Kentucky Health Issues Poll by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky shows 80 percent of voters support extending protective orders to people in dating relationships. Men and women; Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; and voters in all regions of the state support allowing dating partners to get protective orders.

House Bill 8 sponsored by Representatives John Tilley and Joni Jenkins aims to close this gap by extending protective orders to victims of dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The bill passed the Kentucky House on February 12 with a vote of 98-0 and will now be considered by the Senate.

Although there have been bills filed in previous years, we believe this year, with the strong support among voters and the bipartisan support that has emerged on the issue from policymakers, is the year for the bill to pass. Representative Tilley has worked over the last several months with Senator Whitney Westerfield – the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary committee – to ensure the proposal can be supported by both chambers this session. Governor Steve Beshear, First Lady Jane Beshear, Senate President Robert Stivers, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo have all weighed in on the issue and expect a bipartisan bill can pass this session on these important protections.

Protective orders offer a cost-effective too for victims of dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Thanks to Kentucky’s political leaders for recognizing the need to close this gap in Kentucky law. Kentucky’s children and teens will benefit from extended protections.

We encourage you to find out where your state ranks and what steps are being take to address the issue. Please share what you find.

Schedule a Visit with your Government Officials

Schedule a visit with your government officials!

As you think about the year ahead, what do you plan? What do you include on your calendar? You probably include financial deadlines: when year-end documents are due, when grants begin and end. You probably have a grants calendar with alerts about when new RFPs will be released. You may have an events calendar and training calendar. What about an advocacy calendar?

One thing to keep in mind when planning events or advocacy efforts, is the Congressional calendar. When are the House of Representatives and the Senate in session? And, perhaps more importantly, when will they back in their home districts.

The dates below are the tentative dates for when House members and Senators will be back in their home districts and states. Thinking about inviting your representative to tour your facility? Check the calendar below for possible times when your representative may be in your district, and give his or her office a call to check on availability.

District work periods:

House

  • February 17 – 20
  • March 9 – 13
  • March 30-April 10
  • May 4 – 8, 26 – 29
  • June 29 – July 3
  • August 3 – September 4
  • September 21 – 25
  • October 13 – 16
  • November 9 – 13, 23 – 27

Senate

  • February 16 – 20
  • March 30 – April 10
  • May 25 – 29
  • June 29 – July 6
  • August 10 – September 7
  • October 12 – 16
  • November 23 – 27
  • December 21 – 31

Links:

House of Representatives 2015 Calendar:  http://www.majorityleader.gov/Calendar/114thCongressFirstSession-Monthly.pdf

Senate 2015 Calendar: https://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/legislative/one_item_and_teasers/2015_schedule.htm

Building relationships with your federal, state, and local representatives is a  great way to get the word out about your program and share stories and information that could earn you a great government ally. For additional information about advocacy activities, and the difference between advocacy and lobbying, join us on Monday, February 23, at 3:00 p.m. for the webinar, Advocating for your Programs. National Safe Pace Network staff and members of the NSPN Advisory Board Advocacy Committee will go over the differences between advocacy and lobbying and will outline some ideas for successful advocacy efforts. Register for the webinar here:  https://nationalsafeplace.ilinc.com/register/vsmpvpx