With the work beginning at the State Capitol in the Oklahoma Legislature this past week, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy also has hit the ground running.
OICA is tracking roughly 400 bills filed by lawmakers which could have a significant impact on children and families in our state. Generally, we avoid measures related education, instead tracking legislation focused on the health and well-being of Oklahoma’s youth. This occasionally overlaps with school policies, such as suspensions, counseling, and nutrition programs.
Between now and the last Friday in May, by which the Legislature must complete its work, we will monitor, make suggestions for modifications, and alert the public about critical issues. We have found contact from Oklahomans often helps make bad bills good and good bills even better.
Follow this column, our website, and social media, to keep up to date about the myriad issues being considered. Each Thursday, we send electronic newsletters to subscribers. We have regular “action alerts” on time-critical legislative activity. Both are free for subscribers at By staying informed and acting, Oklahomans make a difference as we work to improve the quality of life for our state’s youngest residents.
Part of our advocacy includes projects encouraging young Oklahoma to get involved in advocacy. Last year, we held several competitions allowing young advocates the opportunity to showcase their talent and help make a difference in the state.
We were pleased to partner with the Oklahoma State Medical Association (OSMA) for our calendar art competition. Young artists were called to submit work for inclusion in our 2021 daily desktop calendar. The submissions were impressive and the judges from our board and OSMA doctors had a difficult time choosing a winner.
The theme was “Oklahoma Children’s Healthy Future”, and the winner was Susan Elmore, a 12-year-old artist from Oklahoma City. Her art graces the front of the desk calendar for people to see every day. Susan also won $100 and a calendar from OICA. Many thanks to all those who entered. You can see their works on the daily pages of the calendar posted to OICA’s Facebook and Twitter each morning at 8 a.m. If you would like a calendar of your own, you can email email@example.com for details.
The next initiative was our Census Community Challenge. OICA created this competition to help improve the Census count in towns across the state by holding a rivalry contest. We reached out to municipal and school leaders, encouraging them to get members of their local area involved boost U.S. Census response. Each person counted in a Census response brings back to our state about $1,700 per year in our tax dollars we send to Washington, D.C.
Wann, Oklahoma, located in Nowata County, won the effort, increasing their Census self-response rate from 3.4% on May 17 to 50.8% on Oct 28, when the Census ended. Their 47.4-point improvement was greater than any other community in Oklahoma. They were closely followed by Paoli, Drummond, Sterling, and Medicine Park in the top five. With the win, OICA will donate $250 to the Oklahoma Union Public Schools in South Coffeyville where Wann residents attend for their outstanding support of the U.S. Census.
Please watch this column, our website at oica.org, and our social media channels for upcoming competitions for Oklahoma’s youth!
Joe Dorman is the executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, which was established in 1983 by a group of citizens seeking to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma.