Families First’s Advocacy program is a key part of our approach to achieving the organization’s mission to ensure the success of children in jeopardy by empowering families. The Advocacy program identifies areas of public policy that must be addressed in order to help create the conditions that will break cycles of poverty, allow families to succeed, and children to thrive. The program analyzes policy, identifies best practices and needed changes, determines strategies, and engages staff, volunteers and other partner organizations in the work. Priorities for action are consistent with Families First’s Impact Areas and with analysis of current opportunities and resources.
Goals for 2015-2016
- Use the new building as a space for community advocacy: We envision our new building as being used as a space for true community advocacy. This vision can be manifested in several different ways. We want our office to be a place where: community residents can discuss, organize, advocate, brainstorm, and engage in dialogue about issues affecting the community; learn about legislative and policy issues; participate in advocacy; host town hall forums for elected officials.
- Leveraging Technology: We want to revamp our advocacy program so that it takes maximum advantage of all of the technology that is available to us. More specifically, we want to create an online platform that allows the Public Policy Advocate to provide live updates from the Capitol. We envision this as being part of a larger app for smart phones and mobile technology. The Families First Advocacy App would provide live updates of legislative developments and alert people to important issues around advocacy and public policy.
- Voter Registration: The next election takes place in November 2016 (next fiscal year) but the groundwork will take place this fiscal year. We want to participate in GOTV (get out the vote) efforts and work with community partners to ensure that people are registered to vote.
- Medicaid Expansion: Continue to work with our partner organizations (Georgians for a Healthy Future, Georgia Budget & Policy Institute) to advocate on behalf of Medicaid expansion and lobby legislators to close the coverage gap in Georgia.
- Day at the Capitol: Last year’s Day at the Capitol was a great success. Staff members participated in an informational seminar about Medicaid expansion and then spoke directly with legislators about the importance of Medicaid expansion. This was a great event last year with 15 participants. This year we would like to advocate again for closing the coverage gap, with at least 20 participants.
- Legislative Wrap-Up Event: We would like to host an event in late May where state legislators will come to our office to discuss pertinent legislation of the previous session. This is a good chance for staff members to learn more about the legislative process and for legislators to become more familiar with Families First.
- Continue to monitor legislation that is germane to our mission and vision: We are currently in the middle of a two-year legislative session, and several important pieces of legislation were left pending when the legislature adjourned in 2015. This legislation is listed below.
The legislation we will continue to monitor is listed below, divided by impact area. NOTE: By the December Advocacy meeting, we will have a list of the top 5 legislative pieces we want to promote and advocate for and the top 5 legislative pieces we oppose.
SB 64 eliminates administrative legitimation of a child born outside marriage and requires hospitals to give new parents information on the difference between paternity acknowledgment and legitimation. Biological fathers may access custody, visitation, and inheritance rights by filing in court for legitimation. Status: Passed Senate and House, but floor amendments derailed final passage.
SB 3 would allow the parents of a child to temporarily transfer parental rights to another adult individual without judicial oversight or official court proceedings. The rights could be conferred by a written and notarized power of attorney, and could last up to one year, with a possibility to renew at the conclusion of the year. The attorney-in-fact to whom the rights were transferred would not be allowed to provide consent to marriage or the performance of an abortion on the minor. Status: Passed the Senate, assigned to House Judiciary.
HB 52 provides the Court the power to make a decision on whether or not a parenting plan must be included in determining the final order in a child custody case. Status: Passed House, assigned to Senate Judiciary.
HB 229 allows a child’s aunts, uncles, great-grandparents to seek court-ordered visitation in cases involving child custody. The Court may grant visitation rights to these extended family members if it is determined that not granting such rights might be detrimental to the well-being of the child. Status: Assigned to House Juvenile Justice.
HB 103, known as “Kelsey’s Law,” prohibits giving any information identifying a minor in an obscene depiction. Identifying information includes the minor’s name, address, phone number, email address or imposing an image of the child’s face on an obscene depiction. Status: Passed House, favorably reported by Senate Judiciary Non-Civil.
HB 100 changes the birthday cut-off date to begin kindergarten. The birthday date for reaching 5 years of age will be moved to August 1 for the 2017-2018 school year and then to June 30 for the 2018-2019 school year. Status: Passed House, assigned to Senate Education and Youth.
HB 135, the “Too Young to Suspend Act,” prohibits public school officials from suspending or expelling a pre-kindergarten or kindergarten student unless he or she willfully caused or threatened serious bodily harm to another or brought a weapon to school. Assigned to House Education.
HB 406 provides for age-appropriate sexual abuse awareness and prevention education to be offered from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The curriculum is developed by local boards of education, and can include information on HIV/AIDS and other STDs, pregnancy prevention, and sexual abuse. Status: Assigned to House Education.
HB 334 requires public school students in ninth grade through twelfth grade to take a personal finance course. Such courses will also be offered as an elective in grades six through eight, but are not required. Status: Assigned to House Education.
HB 296 eliminates the one-year residency requirement to qualify for special needs scholarships for legal refugee children. The bill also allows the refugee child’s limited English-speaking abilities to qualify as a special need. Status: Passed House, assigned to Senate Education and Youth.
HB 107 allows youth in foster care or homeless situations to be eligible for in-state tuition and prohibits counting state-funded foster care assistance as income for financial aid. Status: Assigned to House Education.
Health & Health Care:
HB 92 requires employers who offer sick leave to allow their employees to use up to five days of earned sick leaves to care for immediate family members. This bill did not yet pass the House or Senate. Status: Assigned to House Industry and Labor.
SB 242 is similar to HB 92. It is in Senate Health and Human Services.
SB 130 prohibits an adult from smoking in a vehicle when there is a child under the age of 15 present in the vehicle. Status: Passed the Senate, favorably reported by House Judiciary Non-Civil.
HB 34 allows terminally ill patients the right to access investigational drugs, biological products, and devices. Status: Favorably reported by House Health and Human Services.