A Busy Year in Child Advocacy Draws to a Close

Wednesday, 27 December 2023 08:30

A Busy Year in Child Advocacy Draws to a Close Featured

Written by Joe Dorman, OICA CEO
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OKLAHOMA CITY – I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, whichever of the joyous events you chose to celebrate in your life.

I have been laid up the past week with bronchitis, so it was a quiet few days around my house other than that constant cough. I did get to see my mother briefly on Christmas Eve as we exchanged our gifts for each other. I also got to play Santa for a few friends, with most of them receiving their gifts this week.

As we close out another year, it was a special one for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy as we had a lot to celebrate. 2023 was our 40th anniversary, and it was a year filled with remembrance. Each event we held this year was somehow tied in with that recognition of our founding.

We began the year with the publication of our annual desktop calendar which highlights youth-related statistics, a different child-serving program on each of the 365 pages, and the birthdates of elected officials.

I want to thank each of those sponsors, especially the Richison Family Foundation and Paycom for making that possible. Our 2024 calendars, released on the first of February each year, signify the beginning of the Oklahoma legislative session, which is just around the corner.

During the session last year, we held our Advocacy Day/Chili Cook-off which allows different youth programs to compete for the best entry, and it also is a networking event for lawmakers to learn more about these programs. We look forward to hosting several Indian Child Welfare offices this year for the competition at the state capitol, along with other youth-serving missions.

We also held our annual advocacy luncheon, this year in both Oklahoma City at the Skirvin Hotel and in Tulsa at the Hard Rock Hotel, where we presented awards to folks involved with the Terry D. Lawsuit, the legal action which helped create OICA in 1983. We honored Karen Burnes and Bill Lichtenstein, the journalists who brought national attention to the story, along with the five former executive directors of OICA:  Eva Carter, Anne Roberts, Linda Terrell, Doug Gibson, and Terry Smith. We also honored Judge Mike Warren for his work in children’s issues.

Our annual Heroes Ball, celebrating champions for children, brought together individuals who have worked tirelessly to improve Oklahoma. Those included the Potts Family of Oklahoma City, rapper Jabee Williams, First Ladies Donna Nigh and Cathy Keating, and the Cherokee Nation. Our People’s Choice Award winners were Alethea Satterwhite of ReMerge and Sara’s Project, an Ardmore-based child advocacy center.

We also traveled around the state promoting SoonerCare enrollment for young Oklahomans, working directly in 20 rural counties. I had the pleasure of wrapping up my speaking circuit for the year two weeks ago in Okeene when I spoke to their Kiwanis Club.

At our annual policy conference, Fall Forum, OICA recognized other worthy individuals going above and beyond to support others. Those included Stillwater advocate Carolynn Macallister, OKDHS nurse Shelly Lee, and our two Moran “Kidizenship” winners; Ace Morris of Mid-Dell Schools and Isaiah “Zay” Jarvis of Tulsa.

We also published our annual children’s legislative agenda which presents workable solutions to lawmakers and state agencies for improving conditions for Oklahoma’s children and families.

Our annual Legislative Learning Lab will kick off the session and is used to teach advocates about the process. If you would like to register for this four-day session, please go to https://www.oica.org to sign up.

About OICA: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2023. The organization 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, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk. Our mission statement: “Creating awareness, taking action and changing policy to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.”

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