Building a Network of Advocates

Jetta Bernier
February 11, 1999

If a campaign for children lasts long past election day, then we need a trained cadre of leaders to champion children's issues for generations to come. Campaign Director Jetta Bernier foresees a child advocacy institute that reaches out to citizen leaders who feel they need more education about advocacy and critical children's issues. The 10-week program Bernier envisions would be developed in conjunction with the National Association of Child Advocates and would use local experts on issues such as health care, economic security, and political strategy.

Bernier feels the curriculum should incorporate a heavy dose of site visits, giving students hands-on experience with local programs. "People really get it when they visit children's programs and see community programs that work," she says.

The Campaign will attempt to raise funds for the training institute, which will charge a small tuition for attendance. Upon completion of the training, graduates will be encouraged to do projects in their own communities as they move on to the next step, which Bernier imagines as a child advocates academy. "The club will have a lifetime membership," Bernier says. "Once you're in you can network and share ideas with people from across the state, attend regular meetings which will feature speakers on key children's issues . . . " This group could become a resource for future board members, fundraisers, people who will testify at public hearings, and those who will mentor high school students who attend a summer child advocacy institute.

The child advocates academy is one potential effort to create a "literal army" of adults willing to champion children's issues. Says Bernier, "We really need to capture and sustain every child advocate out there and the institute is one way to do that."