Advocate - One who supports or defends a cause, or one who pleads on another's behalf.
A. Write a Letter
Letters are an important, even critical way to influence legislation. Legislative staff members have estimated that for every letter they receive on an issue, there are 200 others constituents that feel the same way, but don't write. You can mail, fax or email your email. Handwritten notes are best as they are not as common these days.
Letters to your own senator or representative are very important. You have three federal legislators: two senators and one representative. If you don't know who they are, try:
When writing a letter of this type try using your personal stationary or letterhead. Often times grassroots campaigns provide sample letters which are great, we have even included one here for you to use as a guide. It is always best to use a guide and then incorporate your own thoughts and words. Adding a personal story about how the legislation affects you or your family adds a personal touch and can be very effective.
Some extra tips
A great letter includes the following elements:
View a Sample Letter.
B. Make a Phone Call
When Congress is in session you can call your legislators or their staff at their offices on Capitol Hill in Washington. Lists of members' names, office addresses and telephone numbers are available for the House at (202)224-3121, the Senate at (202)225-3121 or on the internet at www.house.gov or www.senate.gov.
Some extra tips:
Source: "Tool Kit for Easy Advocacy", Ohio Children's Hospital Association, Original Material from Nancy Amidei, University of Washington; Adapted by The National Association of Children's Hospital's and Related Institutions, and with permission from The Children's Hospital, Office of Government Affairs and Public Relations, Denver, Colorado.
Here are some advocacy tips that can apply to local, state or federal advocacy activities.
Is letter writing effective?
Yes, letters are very important tools for getting a legislators attention. A handwritten letter is most likely to be read by the legislator and many legislators have a policy of handwriting responses to handwritten letters they receive. An e-mail message will most likely be read by a staff member and is the least effective means of communicating with a legislator.
How can I get a legislators attention in a letter?
The first paragraph of the letter should state that you are a constituent of the legislator who voted for the legislator and followed his/her career (if that is true). This will get the legislator's attention.
What is the most effective way to communicate?
Invite the legislator to your home to meet with a group of constituents. It is very difficult for a legislator to turn down a meeting with constituents. Be persistent in trying to schedule a meeting.
Do grassroots efforts pay off?
Absolutely. Sometimes, the only way to get a legislators attention is to bombard them with letters and phone calls. This is particularly applicable in the state of Ohio right now, where legislators are faced with the task of cutting 4 billion dollars out of the 2005 budget.
The ABC Initiative...Access to Better Care
The ABC ... Access to Better Care...Workgroup is comprised of cabinet directors, The Family and Children First Council, families, county agency representatives and the Center for Innovative Practice. This workgroup has collaborated and have made recommendations for a system of care that provides: prevention, early interventions, home, community-based, residential and aftercare services to every person who needs them.
For more information on the ABC initiative and how you can help Ohio's families please visit www.pcsao.org/abc.htm
Parents of children with a mental illness diagnosis or even a learning disability designation also need to be advocates of another type - school advocates. It is important that parents be aware of the resources that are available and how to advocate to get what is best for their children.
A great website to learn more about this is www.wrightslaw.com
Another valuable resource for school advocacy is a book written by a wife and husband team:
From Emotions to Advocacy