Advocacy

Prevention of Child Abuse

The HealthyStart prevention concept and program outcomes resonated with legislators and the Department of Health in Hawaii, as evidenced by a concerted effort to support incremental expansion of the program to reach all families in need of parenting support. The advocacy effort gained legislative support through long term educational efforts on the part of several committed Healthy Start program leaders, with a constant focus on early childhood research and program outcomes. The drive for expansion was led by the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee initially, and later by the Health and Human Service chairs in both the House and Senate over a 15 year period. We continue to educate legislators on the neuroscience of early brain development, the impact of trauma, the importance of prevention and positive program results.

The Healthy Families America initiative was to a great extent inspired by the considerable amount of positive national media on Hawaii Healthy Start. As noted elsewhere,  the initiative was “kicked off” by Prevent Child America with support of the Freddie Mac Foundation and in partnership with the Hawaii Family Support Center, by bringing three person delegations from Maternal Child Health, Human Services and Children’s Trust Funds from all interested states to a Healthy Start conference in Hawaii.  Next, site visits were conducted with interested groups in various states, where a consultant visited for several days to meet with task forces, legislators and other interested groups to familiarize them with the Healthy Start program approach.  Training was provided as communities and states allocated funding for the program.  As communities launched programs of their own, and experienced the process and the results, Healthy Families was eagerly embraced by policy makers and legislators at the state level in many states across the country within a few years of its introduction.

States of Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, New York and Virginia have established very large networks of Healthy Families programs with state technical assistance systems and broad based support of state leaders.

Broader Early Childhood Initiatives

Several initiatives have engaged the public and policy makers in creating effective policies and dedicated revenue streams to establish comprehensive early childhood initiatives.  Child abuse prevention is best seen as part of this effort.

  • Arizona “First Things First” was initiated by Arizona voters, following a major  educational effort by child advocates. This initiative created a funding stream from tobacco tax revenues to support a range of services, including pre-natal services,  Healthy Families Arizona and pre-school services to ensure that Arizona children would be safe, healthy and ready for kindergarten.
  • Miami Dade County in Florida engaged political campaign consultants to “elect” early childhood programs for funding on a broad scale. The campaign was led by a very prominent businessman. The work consisted of focus groups, a media blitz and public education forums which engaged the public, changed public opinion from little support to significant support for early childhood services and resulted in funding of a large early childhood initiative using a modest increase in property taxes.
  • The Children’s Movement of Florida — A statewide initiative patterned after the successful Miami Dade initiative is being conducted utilizing the same consultants. Public forums called “Milk Parties” have been organized using a rally bus tour which has carried The Children’s Movement of Florida from one corner of the state to the other — to an astounding 15,000 people, all determined to make children Florida’s No. 1 priority. Media coverage was excellent, including front page stories and editorials in all of Florida’s largest newspapers and dozens of television reports. Leaders felt that the response demonstrated that the Children’s Movement would have support “to make the well-being and education of our infants, toddlers and all other children Florida’s highest priority, especially when it comes to investing public resources.” This has not as yet translated into a major service initiative but has promise.
  • Good Beginnings Alliance: Be My Voice — The Good Beginnings Alliance has launched a campaign to educate the public about the importance of supporting early child development and school readiness. With leadership from the business community,  educational sessions have  been conducted and a website seeks to gain signatures of individuals and organizations who are committed to well-being and school readiness of Hawaii’s young children.

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