The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) has been very active at the state Capitol since the beginning of session, and it is hard to believe the legislature is about to hit their first deadline at the end of this week. If a bill is not considered in committee, then the bill will be carried over to 2020. OICA has been providing input to lawmakers through our capitol team regarding the impact to Oklahoma’s children with many of these concepts, and we have also held meetings with partner organizations to help them engage more with their membership.
To this point, we have seen many bills also not receive consideration, but we will continue to promote those positive ideas for a future hearing. One good example is Senate Bill 580, by Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City. Her legislation would create an Oklahoma Early Education Savings Plan. The idea for this is to mimic parts of the Oklahoma College Savings Plan by offering a tax incentive to family members to help invest funds to help cover costs for approved daycare and early childhood programs. We hope this idea will be given a hearing next year and will continue to share information with lawmakers regarding the benefit to young Oklahomans and their families if they receive this type of assistance. We hope this issue was held over to consider something like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) restoration of the refundable portion taken away a few short years ago.
Ideas such as criminal justice and health care reform continue to have lawmakers working to find solutions to problems faced within our state. Much deliberation is occurring between the different parties and organizations like OICA. We hope compromise is ahead for changes to improve both systems to reduce the prison population safely and increase availability and stability for health care across the state.
OICA is also continuing our work for programs outside of the legislative area. We are preparing for our Wrap Party on Thursday, February 28, the event which helps support OK Foster Wishes, the program that fulfills wish lists for foster children. We managed to help coordinate and deliver more than 5,500 fulfilled wish lists across the state this past December in partnership with DHS and this party allows us to raise needed dollars and recognize many who went above and beyond to make OK Foster Wishes happen. Honorees this year will be Farmers Insurance, Hobby Lobby, Bob Moore Mazda, Tisch and Curt Gipson, and Regina Haywood. We will also recognize former Governor Mary Fallin and First Gentleman Wade Christensen for their efforts in supporting foster children and reducing Adverse Childhood Experiences. For more information on how to attend, go to oica.org for details!
We are also pleased to announce the intent to increase our workload through OK Foster Wishes this year by helping fulfill lists for children in family placement and safety plans. These are the youngsters being raised by grandparents or other family members under the assistance of the Department of Human Services. While this will significantly increase our current capacity under OK Foster Wishes, we feel strongly that these young Oklahomans should also receive this support whether they are in foster care or with family members struggling to make ends meet. We hope you will join us in this endeavor, and we hope to see you on Thursday!