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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


The Georgia Chamber of Commerce Annual Eggs and Issues breakfast on Tuesday turned out 2700 chamber members and supporters.  I was there.  I’m a Chamber member.  Do all Chamber members agree on every business issue?  No.  But is there power in the Chamber bringing 2700 people together in front of the governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker and many legislators?  Does it say that the business community will turn out when they care about an issue?  Yes!

When was the last time 2700 child advocates assembled in one place?  What would it say to our policymakers if we did? 

 Let’s make this the year that we really show up for kids.  If you can’t make it to the Capitol or to Voices’ Children’s Policy Watch at the Capitol on Feb. 23, or to another legislative event, at least turn out on the phone or by email to contact your legislator.  And how about joining this blog?  Let us know you’re there and you care.

 For starters, tell us the two biggest children’s issues on your mind.  Say it in ten words or less.  Our own legislative agenda will be posted next week.  It supports Voices’ five objectives to improve children’s outcomes by 2015.  But we want to know what’s on your priority list for kids and hope to get your comments.

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!


I am totally mindful that I have only one shot to make a first impression as a new blogger.  Excuse me if I’m a little nervous.  I know I can master the technology.  But this needs something more.  A blog needs your heart and your soul, not just your technical know how.  I’ve made the commitment.

As the Executive Director of Voices for Georgia’s Children I am just one of the Voices staff that will engage you on this blog.  We have an extraordinary group that brings deep knowledge of how children in Georgia are faring, of who does what to deliver services to kids, and how to make sure your voice is heard as an advocate.  I see my own role both in the organization and on our blog as the one who asks “Why?”  Why do children need advocates?  Why should you step out of your comfort zone?  Why will decision makers be persuaded by our arguments?  Why might our position not resonate with certain stakeholders?

Today I want to pose the question “Why must you speak up for children?”  Obviously they don’t vote and are not in the halls of power to speak for themselves.  More importantly, without you, children’s interests cannot compete with the many other issues that are so much better funded.  I believe in our state’s need for transportation, real estate development, utilities, and business.  But these interests have resources at their command that we can only dream of:  legions of corporate experts, armies of industry employees, and decades of political relationships.

Legislation is one way to make change for kids and your contact with those who represent you is a powerful way to advocate.  Many legislators tell us that 10-15 personal contacts on an issue will make them pay attention.   Children may not have money for PACs and entertainment and publicity campaigns, but collectively we, adults who care about kids, have a voice and have the power to vote.   These resources will help children’s interests to compete.

Voices is ready to keep you informed, to alert you to advocacy opportunities, and to share the results.  Children need your voice.  Please join us.


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