by Josh Glover, NCFA Intern
Thursday, June 25th, National Council For Adoption sponsored an Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill following the Putting Family First Conference. Participants from the Conference stayed in Washington an extra day to meet with their members of Congress in order to educate them about adoption-related policy concerns. In total, participants met with 36 Congressional offices – 14 in the House of Representatives and 22 in the Senate. Everyone agreed that it was a very empowering and positive experience to participate. Participants learned that their voices and their statuses as constituents give them a special opportunity to engage and encourage positive action for children and families.
Although this Advocacy Day is over, there are still lots of ways you can be an advocate any day! You can still have an important and active role in advocating for adoption. If you are going to be in Washington in the future, it really is quite easy to schedule meetings with Congressional offices. Simply call the member’s Washington, DC office and ask for the email of the legislative staff member that covers adoption (you can find office contact information by visiting: www.contactingthecongress.org). Also, every member of Congress has district offices in your state. So, you can also do effective advocacy near home. You can set up a meeting with your member of Congress when he/she is in your home district. Congress has “district work periods” and members are in their home districts and meet with constituents during this time. They also have staff members who serve in the district year round. These are also great, local relationships to build. To schedule a meeting with a member, there is usually a form on their website, and you can select the office location nearest you (members may have several office locations in their home districts). Some offices do not have this feature and you will need to call the office to get the contact info for the scheduler, who you can then contact directly. Or, if you need help, NCFA is always glad to help you engage. Just give us a call!
Once you have a meeting set up, here are some tips on how to successfully advocate to members of Congress and their staff.
- When introducing yourself, give a clear and concise explanation about why this issue is important to you.
- Members of Congress and their staff have many issues they have to cover, so they may not be very knowledgeable about adoption-related issues. However, that does not mean that they are not willing to help. Be kind, concise, and informative. It is helpful to provide them with a handout summarizing your concerns.
- Explain your personal connection to the cause. It will give them a greater understanding of how this issue affects the lives of their citizens. Members of Congress and their staff are people too and it’s their job to care about the lives of their constituents – and they do!
- Be clear and concise. Meeting time is often limited, so plan what you are going to say in advance. Explain the situation, your concern, and a clear suggestion to resolve it.
- Follow up. Send an email, card, or letter thanking them for their time and answering any questions they may have asked in the meeting. This will remind them that the issue is important to you and that you are a resource.
- Be Kind. Even if they seem disinterested or say they disagree, be kind. They may be able to help in the future and even if they can’t support your current concern, they may be less likely to oppose your concern if you build a friendly relationship.
- Ask NCFA for help! We have relationships and resources with many members of Congress and their staff. We also have resources to help explain some key issues and are here to help. You don’t have to do it alone!
We are committed to helping you be a powerful voice for adoption. Every voice advocating for adoption helps, so we encourage you to become engaged now! Your voice matters!