On Sunday, CWLA held a series of pre-conference institutes to enable thought leaders to enrich small groups with new insights for engaging dialogue focused on high interest issue areas. The pre-conference institute on advocacy for children and families successfully explored the way in which advocates with service expertise can have the greatest positive impact on policy development.
Tim Briceland-Betts, Director of Policy and Federal Affairs, opened the session framing the extended workshop in light of upcoming elections, introduced the panelists, and briefly described A Child Advocacy Primer: Experience and Advice from Service Providers, Board Leaders, Children and Families. Karabelle Pizzigati, Child, Youth, and Family Policy Consultant, described the origins and process of developing the first edition. She also discussed the content from her professional advocacy experience, describing how to embed advocacy into a mission, engage all the necessary players, and assess the environment. Karabelle’s overview set the state for other thought leaders to explore its component parts.
Abby Levine with Alliance for Justice spoke about the legalities of nonprofit lobbying. Debbie Weinstein with the Coalition for Human Needs discussed coalition work and impending budget deadlines for federal advocates. Rodeline Saint Felix and Dee Saint France with the Rhode Island Youth Advisory Board talked about youth advocacy, one of the new chapters in the updated edition of the primer. Finally Suzanne Lay with CWLA discussed using social media for advocacy, another new chapter in the primer. The morning was rich with informative guidance for giving voice to children and families and understanding to decision makers and the wider public.
On Tuesday, Advocacy Day, attendees at the general session heard from Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) regarding their priorities for the remainder of the 112th Congress. Government Affairs staff presented CWLA’s 2012 Hot Topics and Legislative Agenda, and Dr. Sheryl Brissett Chapman delivered the Call to Action. That afternoon, hundreds of child welfare advocates headed to Capitol Hill to talk to lawmakers about the importance of protecting funding for vulnerable children and families and enacting comprehensive finance reform. The evening ended with the annual gala, where CWLA presented Representative Geoff Davis (R-KY) with an Advocate of the Year Award.