Every seat was filled and then some at our most recent KIDS COUNT Power Lunch in Tulsa. What’s more, numerous organizations with lengthy histories of wonderful work in our state were represented.

The event was held in the Youth Activity Center at Youth Services of Tulsa. We want to thank them for welcoming us and helping us hold this event.

Once again, the Community Conversation Panel was the standout portion of the event. The panel was comprised of State Representative Jeannie McDaniel, DHS District Director Nancy Robison and Stand for Children Oklahoma’s Executive Director Brian Hunt.

We are so grateful to these people for joining us and sharing with everyone their unique perspectives and expertise as it pertains to our state’s children and what we can do together to create a better future for them.

Nancy Robison could not have been more enthusiastic about the work she does with the Department of Human Services. She said it’s an exciting time to be working for the agency, citing the changes being made in accordance with the Pinnacle Plan and the support they’re receiving from the legislature in moving forward with the reforms. She sees this as a great opportunity for tremendous progress within the Department.

When the floor was open for questions, an audience member took the time to thank Nancy for the work she and her coworkers do for the children and for foster families. This woman has in fact stepped up to foster a child and said DHS has done everything in their power to assist her and her family.

At this point, Nancy noted that part of the reason they’re able to offer more help and resources is because of the success they’ve had in hiring more caseworkers and, in turn, minimizing their workload. She said the most cases any worker in her district currently has stands at 25, which she admitted was still too much but way more manageable than what they had been used to for so long. That’s certainly a milestone worth celebrating!

The Community Conversation Panel
The Community Conversation Panel

Representative Jeannie McDaniel followed her. She’s so passionate about the future of our state and the well-being of our kids. Representative McDaniel was adamant about the power we as advocates have when we take the time to call our legislators or, better yet, tell them our story and put a face to the statistics. “When I hear a story, it’s what’s in my heart when I vote,” she said. She looked out at the group and said,

“You give me strength because I know when I cast a not-so-popular vote on the floor you guys are back home cheering me on.”

What a testament to the power of advocacy!

Brian Hunt, a native Tulsan, relayed to us what’s happening on the education front. He held up one of our Tulsa County data sheets and said, “This is the type of information administrators can use.” He started spouting off statistics he knows by heart – 90% of children in the Tulsa school district are on free and reduced lunches, Hispanic students are now the largest group at 30% of the student population, only 4 schools in the district are not Title I schools.

All that to say, the district has experienced some dramatic changes since he was a student himself. This, he said, is why the data is important in keeping up with the constant shifts.

“There’s information you can take away from today and use in a very powerful way,” he said to the audience. “It’s all about telling the story.”

Before we wrapped it up, Representative McDaniel reiterated the importance of building a relationship with your legislators. “You change votes. You do it one handshake, one heartfelt meeting at a time,” she said.

KIDS COUNT Director Sarah Ashmore
KIDS COUNT Director Sarah Ashmore

We are so excited about the momentum of these lunches, the connections being made and the inspiration we’re all sharing with each other to continue to #BeAVoice for children.

If you haven’t registered yet, please do! We’ll be in McAlester on Wednesday the 18th and the last stop of the tour will be in Lawton on Wednesday the 25th. We’d love to see you there.

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