October 26, 2017
These are interesting times we face as Oklahomans and as Americans.  The discussions occurring at the state and federal level have ramifications for all our residents, whether the topic is criminal justice reform, policies impacting child well-being, or access to health care in rural areas.
The budget negotiations occurring at the Oklahoma State Capitol, while often regarded as the most important work done by our legislators, only represent a small fraction of the work they do. The business of crafting policy – which often begins during interim studies at the Capitol – lasts all year and affects all of us.
The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) has taken strong stands in the more than three decades of our work with lawmakers and state agencies, and many of those have originated at our own “interim study” which we hold annually.  The KIDS COUNT Fall Forum is the annual conference held by OICA to assemble the best and brightest minds from around Oklahoma to discuss which policies should be implemented through law or agency rules to help the youngest of our state. 
The 2017 KIDS COUNT Fall Forum will be held this year at the Oklahoma State Capitol on November 2nd and we will continue our tradition of allowing conference registrants the opportunity to share their ideas, concerns and suggestions. Ultimately, their input will be used as the basis for forming our OICA policy agenda which we present to the Legislature, Governor Fallin and her cabinet members who oversee child services. 
Topics we will discuss this year in our break-out sessions will include foster care/child well-being, criminal justice reform, poverty & the economy, and early childhood development.  We will also discuss race equity concerns and the range of state and federal policies which impact Oklahomans.  We will have more than a dozen morning workshops helping educate attendees on the legislative process, anti-bullying, childhood hunger prevention, trauma informed care, and ways to promote 2018: The Year of the Child (which is also our conference theme). Attendees will also get to hear from our candidates for governor at a lunch-time gubernatorial forum.   
We condensed the conference down to one day to reduce costs and help attendees better afford the registration fee, which comes to $99.  This will not only include the three meals provided at the conference, but also an Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy t-shirt so folks can help share our message through that visibility.  The more folks we have asking questions about the organization and how they can get involved, the better off the kids of our state will be when it comes to having a voice at the capitol representing their best interests.
To register for the conference, go to https://forum-oica.nationbuilder.com/sign_up or call Nicole at 405-236-5437 and request an invoice.  We need engaged citizens willing to provide their input and points of view to build a consensus document which will help encourage better policies for the kids of Oklahoma.  If you have ever wondered how you can help make a difference, this is the time and the opportunity to help call for answers to the problems we face as a state and a nation.  Please be a part of the solution!

By OICA CEO Joe Dorman

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