OICA Unveils 2022 “Children’s Legislative Agenda”
Each year, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy works with child advocates and leaders from across the state to develop a legislative agenda to improve the quality of life for Oklahoma’s children. Attendees at OICA’s annual Fall Forum work on subject matter for legislation. That document is taken by OICA’s Advocacy Committee, which develops the agenda proposal approved by the Board of Directors. That document follows. Lawmakers who sponsor legislation from the agenda get bonus points on the annual Children’s Legislative Scorecard.
2022 Children’s Legislative Agenda
In keeping with the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy’s stated mission of “Creating awareness, taking action, and supporting policy to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Oklahoma’s children,” the Children’s Legislative Agenda for 2022 is respectfully submitted. This document highlights the deliberations held during the 2021 Fall Forum with assembled advocates from across Oklahoma, and with review by the 2021 OICA Board of Directors regarding policy solutions deemed essential to help young Oklahomans thrive and succeed as they grow older. These recommendations are presented to our state legislators and other policymakers as recommendations to pursue over 2022 and in the 2nd Session of the 58th Oklahoma Legislature.
MENTAL & PHYSICAL HEALTH
In the area of Mental & Physical Health, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy continues advocating policies that ensure all the state’s children have prospects to be as healthy as possible, in both the body and the mind. To improve overall wellness, the attendees of the 2021 Fall Forum and OICA Board suggest the following pathways. In the areas of mental and physical health, OICA will pursue policies to:
- Improve access to quality food for Oklahoma’s children, including increased public funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program incentives and support for healthier food options for children.
- Reduce the rate of child suicide in Oklahoma, including efforts to have children and adult caregivers complete Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) surveys, increasing the number of children screened for ACEs at times such as pediatric visits, and increase initiatives to normalize mental health care as well as reducing barriers to mental health care.
- Implement sustainable support and enhanced tax credits to help families with privately-paid care for children with disabilities, such as stable accounts, 525 accounts, and other incentive programs.
- Seek policies that best serve children with developmental disabilities in a timely manner.
- Improve children’s oral health by encouraging that school-based sealant programs be initiated, improve oral health education and assessments, and support community fluoridation improvements.
- Correct the defect in Oklahoma’s seatbelt law that allows young children to legally ride without a seatbelt and improve safety policies for youth in vehicles.
- Improve vaccine access and bring awareness of accurate information about vaccines, including the vaccine for COVID-19, while also encouraging use of the meningitis vaccine and other necessary preventative measures to bring Oklahoma standards in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards.
- Support initiatives that promote a holistic approach to children’s physical, mental, and social health.
- Act on lessons learned during COVID lockdown, including the need for increased access to counseling, along with more outside activities that are safe for children.
ECONOMIC STABILITY FOR OKLAHOMA FAMILIES
OICA will further promote advocacy to strengthen Economic Stability for Oklahoma Families. Policies ranging from ensuring parents have jobs to support their families to effective allocation of American Rescue Plan Act resources will be among the initiatives pursued, along with the following recommendations. In the area of economic stability for Oklahoma families, OICA will pursue policies to:
- Invest in workforce development, including reciprocal licensing, provide incentives for jobs within child welfare, education and medical care areas, career readiness, and support policies allowing parents to care for children with developmental disabilities without risking their jobs.
- Maximize resources provided by the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to provide for universal childcare and employer-based childcare, wage, and training subsidies for workers, reducing red tape that can impede job creation, allow for minimum wage increases, and investments in public school and preschool programs.
- Ensure low-income families have access to healthy food choices by increasing grocery store access in “food desert” areas, subsidizing local farmers to provide healthy and affordable options at local grocers and farmers’ markets.
- Reform the state’s tax system to be less regressive to ensure fairness for taxpayers at all income levels, which can be done by adjusting income tax rates and repealing the state’s grocery sales tax in a way that does not create fiscal problems for cities and towns.
- Make health insurance more affordable and accessible for families.
- Fully fund county health departments and ensure access to quality support services in each of the state’s 77 counties.
- Help children be prepared for life by teaching life skills classes (such as financial wellness, practical daily living, etc.) that translate into real world situations.
- Improve public transportation systems within cities and across the state, invest in pedestrian walkways and sidewalks, and implement bike lanes.
- Pass incentives for companies to provide needed time off for family health care appointments.
- Allocate more public outdoor play spaces, provide tax credits for storm shelters, expand affordable housing support, and enact protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals and groups facing discrimination.
- Support policies that promote access to safe, sustainable, and affordable housing options.
CHILD WELFARE & JUVENILE JUSTICE
In the area of Child Care & Juvenile Justice, OICA supports improved assistance programs for qualifying families, along with interventions to help justice-involved youth. We will seek the following innovative solutions to properly prepare young Oklahomans for a successful adulthood. In the area of child welfare and juvenile justice for Oklahoma families, OICA will pursue policies to:
- Increase support for foster families with automatic enrollment in SNAP and other benefits when qualified, increase support for trauma-informed services, increase access to daycare for foster youth, and improve policies related to income and other support services for youth about to age out of state systems.
- Improve paid family leave, allow for regional or state increases in minimum wage, increase compensation for defense attorneys in deprived cases, reduce teen pregnancy through appropriate lifestyle classes and conversations, and modernize the Landlord Tenant Act to reflect modern costs.
- Implement support and increase access for High Quality Legal Representation (HQLR).
- Reduce rates of child trafficking including establishment of a statewide review of current services with sufficient resources, work with other states to reduce trafficking across state lines, and increase access to services for youth experiencing homelessness
- Improve tracking of child abuse and neglect, including training of childcare providers (i.e., training to recognize abuse and obligation to report), appropriate budget and staffing of DHS programs and employees, and increase follow-up on reported cases of child abuse and neglect.
- Support policies that encourage preventative services for children at risk of system involvement.
- Ensure that there is a strong bond and connection between the state and tribal governments to better serve children in need.
- Support policies that protect children while supporting a just criminal justice system and reduce reliance on fees and fines to pay for government services.
- Support safe and appropriate placements for children in congregate care settings and encourage family engagement.
- Support actions to improve and modernize the state’s response to juvenile justice.
TECHNOLOGY ACCESS & BROADBAND IMPROVEMENT
Technology & Broadband improvement is critical for infrastructure and opportunity, as equally important as any other resource for building strong minds, healthy economic prospects, and brighter futures across the entire state. OICA will seek improved access to online essential services, increased broadband access, and increased public-private partnerships to continue this 21st century expansion. We support the following pathways to success. In the area of technology access and broadband improvement, OICA will pursue policies to:
- Encourage public/private partnerships including engaging members of the state’s banking industry to consider capital investment in broadband infrastructure as part of their community reinvestment strategies.
- Increase access to telemedicine across the state, modernize social service portals for patients to make appointments, create easier to understand websites with multilingual messaging, and increase overall accessibility.
- Support policies that improve student access to appropriate technology.
- Work to streamline online applications and ensure private entities are aware of support from government programs.
- Ensure domestic violence victims have access to virtual supports while maintaining confidentiality of the victim.
- Protect children from online predators and abuse by improving reporting systems, increasing mental health programs, and educating caregivers about what to watch for among children targeted by online predators.