Op-Ed

Pressing children’s issues face Florida lawmakers

TNS

Although the holiday season has come and gone, the desire to give back mustn’t diminish. On Jan. 12, the start of the 2016 Legislative Session, we segue into an opportunity to invest in our most valuable resources — our children.

Legislators have their plates full deciding how to allocate funds and create policies to address the needs of Floridians. We must shine a light on the importance of legislation and programs that provide our children with the opportunity to be as healthy, educated, safe and well-cared-for as possible.

While Senate President Andy Gardiner has done a great deal to advance important issues related to children with unique abilities, a range of other essential children’s issues need to be addressed in this this legislative session.

That is why the United Way of Florida, along with 132 partners across the state will kick off its 21st annual Children’s Week celebration on Jan. 23 by hanging thousands of children’s hand cutouts inside the State Capitol. The “Hanging of the Hands” is intended to remind legislators of the individual children who created the artwork and to lend them a hand while making critical policy decisions.

Children’s Week is a key tool for advocates across Florida because it gives them a platform for their voices to be heard in unison. On Tuesday, Jan. 26, thousands of families, educators and leaders will gather at the State Capitol. Children’s Week partners, including nonprofits, faith-based organizations and businesses, will host exhibit booths to provide information about important children’s issues, programs and services.

The Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend and Office of Early Learning will host an interactive Storybook Village for kids to promote literacy. The Florida YMCA Youth in Government will host a Town Hall Meeting for older students to engage and collaborate with Florida’s Children and Youth Cabinet, and The Children’s Trust/Youth Advisory Committee will host a Youth Leadership Workshop on civic engagement.

Policymakers will speak out on the back steps of the Old Capitol and thousands of people wanting to make a difference will join together to highlight the most important policy issues facing Florida’s children and families.

I encourage you and your family to join us in Tallahassee for Children’s Week and advocate for the issues that matter most to you — like quality education, safety and health standards in child care facilities, child obesity prevention, nutrition, affordable children’s healthcare and child abuse prevention, just to name a few.

If you can’t join us on Jan. 26, please visit www.childrensweek.org and use our Children’s Week resources to contact your legislators. Raising awareness about these issues is the key to making positive policy changes across the state.

We must stand up for our children; they are the most vulnerable yet our most prized citizens. Let us safeguard Florida’s future by ensuring our children reach their full potential and have bright futures ahead.

Ted Granger is president of the United Way of Florida and chair of Children’s Week.

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