What will it take to make Oregon the best place to be a kid?

By Tonia Hunt of Milwaukie, Oregon. Tonia is the executive director of Children First for Oregon.

What will it take to make Oregon the best place to be a kid? Seriously, what’s it going to take?

There are over 100 child and family advocacy organizations in the state, not to mention the thousands of direct service providers. Each of them does important and valuable work on behalf of kids every day.

So why aren’t we making more progress for kids?

Because it’s pretty easy for elected officials to say “no” when it’s just that one niche issue represented by a handful of advocates or only one region or county asking for help. It’s easy to not hear a constituency that’s not old enough to vote. It’s tough to notice the money in the piggy banks belonging to 860,000 Oregon kids. That’s why something new has to be done.

The Children’s Agenda, being unveiled today at ORUnitedForKids.org, is a first step to making that change. The Agenda is a compilation of the best thinking of over 60 pro-child advocacy organizations and coalitions. It’s a list of legislation being brought before the 2015 Oregon Legislature, each piece of which is designed to help answer that one, simple question—what will it take to make Oregon the best place to be a kid?

The Agenda isn’t designed to find one answer. Rather, it is many answers to the many issues facing our children today. Kids need to be educated; they need to be healthy; they need to be safe; they need to be economically secure. The groups who are participants in the Children’s Agenda have had the opportunity to share their solutions and other groups have joined their cause. From OEA and SEIU to APANO and the Oregon Pediatric Society, from Youth, Rights & Justice and the Urban League to Upstream Public Health and the Oregon Center for Public Policy, each has a unique answer, or set of answers, to that one seminal question. Not every organization or coalition agrees on every issue, but everyone understands the importance of marshalling the collective voices of pro-child advocates. Not everyone has the capacity to advance a piece of legislation, but everyone is welcome to support the bills that they agree would be best for the children of Oregon.

With the release of the 2015 Children’s Agenda, our elected officials get to see, in one place, the bills that address ALL of the areas that make kids educated, healthy, safe and economically secure, not just one or two. Legislators can learn which groups are supporting an issue and then can ask those groups directly about it. It is a resource—a platform for children’s advocates.

Children First for Oregon is proud to be associated with these committed participants. We see our role as supporting their efforts in any way we can. We hope that, by bringing these solutions together in one place, we can strengthen and solidify the voices that represent the children’s constituency. Because in everything that we do, we must work to make Oregon the best place to be a kid.

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