By Erica Fener-Sitkoff
Who is Voices for Georgia’s Children? It’s a question I am asked all of the time. It’s a question I love to talk about because, well, I love this organization!
Voices is the only COMPREHENSIVE statewide child policy and advocacy organization. We are not-for-profit, non-partisan, and data-driven. We stand up for kids. ALL kids. ALL ages. In ALL communities in Georgia. We educate to ensure people know why Georgia children are not thriving and why they are. We convene policy makers, subject matter experts, communities and youth to find solutions. We influence policies, laws, budgets, systems, and actions to make those solutions happen.
I know you’re thinking…what does all of that mean? Why does Georgia need one of those? And, why is COMPREHENSIVE in all caps?
Those are all great questions.
Why is COMPREHENSIVE in all caps?
Many advocacy and policy organizations focus on a particular subject matter that impacts child development (e.g. health, education, justice, welfare, etc.) or a particular time in development. While this can be beneficial, it is important to not overlook the interaction of individual elements and the context in which they exist.
One element for a quality education is a great teacher. However, to learn from that teacher, a child must be IN class. Did you know that asthma is the top reason for student absences? If a child doesn’t have access to quality healthcare, he or she is more likely to miss school. Couple that with an unstable home situation or unreliable or low quality out of school care, how can we expect a child to learn if they are not in class? Putting a great teacher in front of the class doesn’t matter if we ignore these other barriers a child may be facing.
What sets Voices apart is our recognition that children are not segmented beings. We see each child in his or her entirety – as a “whole child.” It is reflected in our policy priorities and advocacy strategies, as well as our access to and connection of key players from diverse areas to drive solutions.
Why does Georgia need an organization like Voices?
For the first time since 2012, Georgia broke out of the bottom ten for overall child well-being. I realize some of you are asking – is that really something to celebrate? Yes, yes it is. Because we aren’t celebrating that we are ranked #39. We are celebrating what is possible. Our ranking this year shows us that, when we make COMPREHENSIVE investments in our children, families and communities, as we have increasingly done, we will fundamentally advance our children’s well-being and become number one.
Our children deserve solutions to address the multiple challenges of child well-being and ones that reinforce one another. How do we do that? Through systems change. Changing laws. Changing policies. Changing investments and actions that improve the systems children interact with every day. We need systems that not only sustain children and keep them safe, but also ensure they thrive — from healthy food access (hyperlink to Farm to ECE fact sheet), to housing, to education (link to A Solid Start page), to healthcare (link to Healthy Minds and Bodies) and beyond.
Who does it take to get us there?
The cliché answer is: everyone. More specifically, here at Voices, we have a team of 8 – and we are growing! But the truth is, it takes you – all of you. You in your communities figuring out what works and making it happen. You sharing those results with the rest of us – the team here at Voices, fellow Georgians, your legislators and beyond.
What will happen when that happens?
Can you imagine? What would Georgia look like if we met the needs of ALL of our children and ensure our child serving systems help them thrive?
By doing this, the next generation is healthier, happier and more productive. I think we can all agree that is good for each and every one of us.
So come. Join us in standing up for Georgia’s children!