OICA: A History Forged by Overcoming Injustice
Awards Honor Fighters for Children, Youth Philanthropy
When I first arrived at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, I knew very little about the history of the organization. Like most Oklahomans, I knew of OICA’s good work at the State Capitol, fighting for issues important to our state’s children.
As a lawmaker, I got to work with them on issues ranging from the efforts to implement healthier options for children in schools, to encouraging more physical activity during the day, to improving the opportunities for youth in foster care and in justice-involved situations, the new term for those who have gotten in trouble with breaking laws.
I was too young to really understand the implications of what founded OICA as that began in the late 1970s and carried on through our founding in 1983. I had heard little of the “Terry D.” lawsuit, the action brought against the state of Oklahoma on behalf of the youth who were incarcerated by the state.
Seven teenagers who had experienced horrific conditions while in the custody of the Department of Human Services (DHS), then the entity which housed young offenders, were the ones who stepped up to right those wrongs. For several years, attorney Steven Novick from Legal Aid of Western Oklahoma and the plaintiffs challenged the powerful system in place and finally found justice.
Founded in the aftermath of that lawsuit, OICA has been active in various policy improvements and projects which support Oklahoma’s youth. Among the many issues on which we have had an impact are ranging from protecting and enhancing SoonerCare – the state Medicaid program for youth who qualify financially – and nationally-recognized teen pregnancy prevention research, which has helped reduce teen pregnancy across the state.
Most recently, we have shifted our focus back to working with lawmakers and state agencies to improve policy and overall conditions for children in our state. We could not have seen the successes and initiated the changes if not for those early years and the leaders who sought better for the youth of our state.
In recognition of them and their efforts, OICA has created several awards to raise awareness of those who are making a difference for Oklahomans. We will present the winners in November during our annual Fall Forum, which will be held virtually this year.
The Steven A. Novick Award for Child Advocacy was established two years ago to recognize an unsung hero in our state who is doing tremendous work for young people, often flying under the radar of public attention. This is for the “worker bee” who has made a tremendous difference through their effort to improve the lives of children at risk.
The Laura Choate Resilience Award is named after one of the seven Terry D. plaintiffs. Laura experienced horrific abuse as a teenager incarcerated at one of the youth penitentiaries by those who should have been working to help her. She has dedicated her life to helping others who have seen similar issues. This award was created to recognize an individual who have been significantly impacted by adverse childhood experiences but has overcome those obstacles and has made a lasting contribution to the lives of young people and demonstrate dedication to fostering resilience in youth.
The Moran Kidizenship Award is named after Jasmine and Melvin Moran, two philanthropists most well-known as the founders of the Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum in Seminole. They have spent their lives celebrating opportunities for the youth of Oklahoma. The Kidizenship Awards recognizes and rewards excellence in youth philanthropy, providing young Oklahomans under the age of 18 to showcase their activities which benefit other young people in Oklahoma. The awards represent the true “Oklahoma Standard” – the opportunity to demonstrate how young Oklahomans are making this a great state!
To suggest someone for one or each of these awards, please go to oica.org to submit the proper nomination. We need your help to find those most deserving in our state to honor them for their effort to help the children of our state.
About OICA: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy 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.”