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As the debate on healthcare reform approached a vote on Sunday evening, Speaker Pelosi called out the names of organizations that had worked collaboratively in support of reform.  One of those was Voices for America’s Children, our national association.  Our national membership organization worked tirelessly to ensure that the needs of children were given priority in health reform.  Our objective in the health reform debate was not to structure reform but to make sure that the gains for child health that we have made over the years with the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and its reauthorization in 2009 were sustained and hopefully improved.  We are delighted that one of the immediate impacts of the legislation, if enacted, will guarantee that children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied health insurance.

There are no do-overs for childhood.  Healthy children become healthy adults.  Our national, state and local health policies must recognize this as both an obligation to the most vulnerable and an opportunity for cost savings and increased productivity in the future.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

In the current issue of VOX, staff member Giovan Bezan writes about the current effort by the JUSTGeorgia coalition to revise the Georgia Juvenile Code. “Just Is” Isn’t Justice Fighting for Change in Georgia’s Youth Laws.” Bezan explains (from a teen perspective) how a young person whose made bad choices can get trapped in a vicious cycle of foster homes and detention centers.

VOX readers will also find an interesting commentary on the current healthcare reform effort, “If We Were In Charge…” by Charnall Arnold.  There are a growing range of outlets for teens to express themselves and share their opinions.  VOX is one of the oldest and and remains one of the best.

VOX Teen Communications is a non-profit youth-development organization located in
downtown Atlanta, GA, dedicated to giving teens the skills and resources to raise their voices about issues that most matter to them. Through VOX, teens come from all around the Atlanta area to work together, share information, explore their talents and express themselves by writing articles, creating art and designing layouts for the VOX newspaper and Web site.

In many ways, Massachusetts has held the spotlight throughout the majority of the national health reform conversation. For one, Massachusetts is unique in having passed legislation aimed at covering all within their state. For another, one of the most fervent champions for health reform is the late Senator Ted Kennedy who hailed from the state of Massachusetts.  And in the aftermath of this Tuesday’s Senatorial election in Massachusetts, our collective gaze turns once more to this attention-grabbing state.

But what is the level of significance that Massachusetts’ election has on the entirety of U.S. politics?

With the election of Senator Brown, a Republican, Senate Democrats have lost their supermajority. Technically speaking, Democrats had only comprised 58 of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate. But with 2 Independents caucusing with the Democrats, they had totalled 60–the magic number needed to override any filibuster on the health reform legislation. (For those who need a refresher from your courses in high school civics, a filibuster is a process used by legislators to either slow or completely block passage of legislation)  And following the election of Senator Brown, they total 59.

So now what?

Now the leaders who drafted and introduced the legislation must consider a variety of options on how to move forward with health reform. Check back with Voices’ website to read up on some of the options detailed within our forthcoming weekly legislative update.

Regardless of whatever option is chosen, the health reform process continues. I’m sure many of us in the health policy field had assumed that something concrete would have happened by now. Many of us who have been watching closely grow weary with each day, week, month that passes while the debate continues.

But we have to remember that the reforms of today will impact not only our generation but those to come as well.  It is not in vain that we continue to advocate for meaningful reform to our current health care system.

We must be determined.  And tireless.

Welcome back to Voices’ Blog for Georgia’s Children

Over the next weeks and months, look for new (and much briefer!) posts every week from Voices staff and colleagues full of opinion, ideas, best practices, video, photos, tips, advocacy opportunities and links to the latest information about how kids are faring in Georgia and what people across the state are doing to make their lives better.

Beginning today, the staff of Voices for Georgia’s Children will be blogging on a regular basis each week.  We are anxious to generate conversations and to hear your perspectives.  Through this blog and other online tools, we’ll be continuing to expand our network of dedicate advocates working on behalf of children across the state.

Over the next four months, Mindy Binderman, Advocacy Director, will focus largely onlegislative developments under the Gold Dome.  These are the same fact-filled Daily Updates you’ve come to rely on from Voices over the past few years whenever the legislature is in session.  Mindy will also be blogging on a wide range of topics, including advocacy opportunities for professionals as well as parents and other citizens who want to do something to make a difference for kids.

Beth Locker, Policy Director, will be sharing insights and information about issues and best practices related to a wide range of policy areas related to children.

Joann Yoon, our Associate Policy Director for Child Health, will be your source for the latest on national healthcare reform and how it could impact Georgia’s kids and families, among many other health-related topics and Georgia’s own policy environment.

When it comes to young people and families involved with the juvenile court system, Julia Neighbors, Program Director for JUSTGeorgia, will be our eyes and ears.  She, along with Mindy, will be keeping close watch on the progress of SB 292, the Child Protection and Public Safety Act.

Of course, you’ll also be hearing from Pat Willis, our Executive Director.  She’ll be asking tough questions about the status of kids in Georgia and what leaders and voters can and should be doing so that children and young people across our state are healthier, safer, better educated, more connected to their community and ready to find jobs and achieve their full potential.

As Director of Public Policy and Communications, I’ll be talking about how people are talking about kids.  Or rather, how stakeholders and others doing this work are connecting and sharing their ideas and concerns: online, in person, in the media, at conferences and in other public settings.  I’ll be sharing communications and social networking tips for advocates and looking for tips and suggestions from you.

I’ll also be introducing guest bloggers to this space from a variety of communities, including business leaders, small business owners, faith leaders, educators, parents, entrepreneurs, artists, environmentalists, and, perhaps most importantly, kids and young people.

Of course, if you’re reading this, then you’re always invited to make your voice heard by making a comment on anything you see here.  We want to hear from you!  What do you think?  What are your concerns?  What are your suggestions?  How can we do what we do better and more effectively?

Our new conversation starts today.

Thanks for being part of it!



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