On Friday, 14 area individuals involved in early childhood education, childcare and child welfare attended a three-hour forum at Lakeshore Cafe, and learned about making a difference for children through advocacy and the legislative process.
The event was jointly hosted by Every Child Matters, a non-profit, non-partisan organization who aims to increase involvement of child service professionals during elections, and Every Child Counts, an advocacy group who regularly lobbies for children's issues at the state capitol.
Although children account for 24 percent of the population, they only comprise 2 percent of political issues.
"We have a sense that no one wants to pay attention to children's issues," said Tom LaPointe, director of Every Child Matters Iowa. "We want to raise children's issues---we don't care who the candidates are---we just want to bring them to the forefront."
According to statistics compiled by Every Child Matters Washington D.C., over 10 percent of the federal budget is dedicated to children, through health, education, training, safety, tax credits, subsidies, benefits and nutrition.
Every Child Counts is in the process of building a state-wide network of grassroot advocates, ensuring a powerful voice for public policies that support children and families. The advocacy organization's priorities include quality early childhood care and education, child well-being and development and child and family economic success.
Attendees learned about the different levels of advocacy, which begin with being informed, finding out who represents them, sharing their story, making a community connection, communicating with their legislator, organizing a letter campaign, connecting legislators to local efforts, visiting their legislator, working with the media and testifying at the state capitol.
Although LaPointe has been part of events held across the state, Friday's forum was his first in Storm Lake.
"The turnout was better than expected, and it was interesting to hear about the lack of childcare options in Storm Lake," he said, citing a recent Pilot-Tribune article regarding childcare after the Gingerbread House's closure. "It was an important takeaway for us. With Iowa as a rural community, it's important to reach out."
To learn more about Every Child Matters and Every Child Counts, visit everychildmatters.org/state-campaigns/iowa and everychildcountsiowa.org.