2024 Children’s Legislative Agenda Ready for Lawmakers’ Consideration
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117
Jay Paul Gumm, Director of Policy & Communications
Telephone: (405) 600-0290
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) has finalized its 2024 Children’s Legislative Agenda for consideration by the state’s lawmakers. Approved by the OICA Board of Directors this week, the agenda outlines the organization’s goals and presents lawmakers with a roadmap to make Oklahoma an even better state for its children.
“Advocates from across the state came together during our annual Fall Forum to discuss a wide range of issues relating to children,” said Joe Dorman, OICA’s CEO. “While this is an ambitious agenda, we believe each component of it is critical to improving the lives of our most important resource.”
From the input from child advocates, the OICA Board of Directors considered the suggestions and coalesced them into recommendations divided into four specific categories: Child Abuse Prevention & Child Safety Measures; Access to Children’s Support Programs; Child Trafficking, Counseling, Mental Health, and Learning Loss; and, Deprived and Justice Involved Youth.
A focus of the Children’s Legislative Agenda this year is implementation of the recommendations made by Governor Stitt’s Child Welfare Task Force (CWTF), especially as the recommendations relate “directly to the improvement of quality of life for those children burdened by poverty, family substance abuse, and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).”
OICA encourages lawmakers to continue funding of one of the organization’s legislative victories last year, the “Double Up Oklahoma” program, which matches the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars spent at participating farmers markets and grocery stores to promote healthy food choices among lower-income households and families.
The organization reiterated its support for passage and funding of the Family Representation and Advocacy Act. That measure would help ensure that “children and indigent parents, legal guardians and, Indian custodians in deprived child actions brought by the state” have access to high quality legal representation.
The “Handle with Care” concept to “boost trauma-informed training for those who might come in contact with children who have or are enduring adverse childhood events (ACEs), to ensure those children who have endured trauma are, indeed, handled with care” also was supported by advocates in the Children’s Legislative Agenda.
Advocates expressed support for social media safety education, to help reduce the incidents of human trafficking, increasing the number of school counselors and mental health professionals across the state, and opposition to weaking the state’s child labor laws.
In addition, advocates asserted that the legal system is the entity in which children in the most dire situations should be able to find the protection they deserve. For those who are deprived, abused, or justice-involved, the judiciary is where critical decisions are made; as such, lawmakers and advocates have special responsibilities to ensure the regulatory and statutory structure is such that children’s best interests are paramount in the decisions being made.
“This represents only a portion of the recommendations made by advocates and our Board of Directors,” Dorman related. “The entire agenda is available to the public on our website, located at https://oica.org/. Also, the agenda will be shared with lawmakers in hopes many of these proposals are included in bills for 2024, and that those already under consideration are passed into law.”
Release of the annual Children’s Legislative Agenda is the final action the organization takes each year in preparation for the next. This year’s agenda is special as it is the last event of OICA during its 40th Anniversary year. OICA celebrated four decades since child advocates established the organization to be an independent watchdog on state government in the aftermath of the child welfare scandal brought to light in the Gannett report, “Oklahoma Shame.” That report can also be found on OICA’s website.
To kick off the new year, OICA will host its Legislative Learning Lab on Jan. 31, Feb 1, 2, and 5. The organization’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol will be March 12. For the latest information on these events, refer to the OICA website.