Children advocacy groups lobby legislators

Shamoyita DasGupta

Members from Children at Risk collaborated with other organizations to give a voice to children who are too young to vote for themselves, group members said.

The organization hosted Children’s Advocacy Day for the first time at the Capitol on Thursday to allow participants to meet with legislators and encourage them to make children a priority this legislative session. The organization hosted the event to educate the community about children’s health, education, food and nutrition, human trafficking and access to health care.

“We work on effecting change for policy,” said Dawn Lew, staff attorney for the organization. “We thought this would be an opportune time to raise awareness about our issues and speak with legislators and get the community involved.”

The main goal of the event was to bring awareness to legislators about children’s issues on their behalf, since most kids do not have the ability to do so themselves, said Houston pediatrician Jamil Joyner.

“Children don’t vote,” Joyner said. “Someone has to be a voice for them, so we have to remind [legislators] that investing in our children is a good investment for them.”

The event was attended by members of Project GRAD, students from Quest High School in Houston, pediatricians with Doctors for Change and members of Prayer for Freedom in Fort Worth.

“You want children to progress,” said social work sophomore Brenda Cazares, who is a member of Project GRAD. “The more resources that you have available, the more chance you’ll have that a child will be successful in life.”

After a rally for mental health advocacy by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 40 people split into four groups, which then met in 30-minute increments to discuss their concerns with legislators.

“It’s important for our legislators to see everyday folks coming here to tell them that we need to give kids the chance at success,” said Bob Sanborn, President and CEO of Children at Risk.

Doctors for Change members who were part of the group focusing on health, expressed worries about the budget deficit, which would mean loss of funding for health care.

“Our legislators are making really important decisions [about the budget],” said Houston pediatrician Claire Bocchini. “Every decrease in funding impacts the care we can provide.”