A special power
Petitions, letter writing, demonstrations, and other kinds of advocacy are all important. The special power of the telephone and the Internet is in responding quickly to national initiatives before votes are taken.
Advocacy over the phone
   The information on Advocacy over the phone was developed by Helen Blank of the Children's Defense Fund. While it specifically references contacts to federal officials, the same information is useful when communicating with your state or local officials.
   Having an administration that supports children's issues means positive change is sure to come, right? Only if it hears from you!
   A Possible Scenario - The President of the United States has just announced a bold initiative for children: access to high-quality care for every child, and additional resources to bolster elementary schools. The next morning the White House phones begin to ring. Is it the ground swell of support the President expected? On the contrary, most callers argue that money for childcare and early education is not a top priority. The President is surprised. Weren't these important issues to families? When the final tally is taken, calls against the proposals far outnumber those that support it. He begins to reconsider whether America really wants increased investment in children.
   Could this happen? Indeed it could. Many people who care about children assume that policy-makers support investing in children, or that if they don't, their minds cannot be changed. Either way, child-care providers, teachers, and parents do not usually call the White House to express their opinions about proposed initiatives, or to ask their Congressional representatives to support a particular bill. Yet a simple phone call can make a big difference.
   A success story - In 1990, Congress enacted comprehensive childcare legislation. This victory for children did not come easily. For three years, child-care providers and other concerned citizens kept pressure on legislators in many ways: by writing letters to the editors of newspapers, by raising the issue at town meetings, and by distributing postcards to senators and representatives. At several critical points, they tied up the telephone lines of the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader. Through their actions, citizens made it clear to Congress and the White House that it would not be acceptable to adjourn in 1990 without first enacting this child care legislation into law. The Child Care and Development Block Grant is the result. Important as it is,it is only a beginning.
   Success may be a phone call away. If our nation is to ensure strong policies for all children, we must make sure our elected officials know that this is important to us. The telephone is a fast, easy, and efficient way to help shape national policy for children. Here are some points to remember:

   When calling the White House
  • Telephone number -(202)456-1111
  • Best time to call - after the President makes a speech proposing a significant new childcare initiative.
  • To register your support - refer to the issue you've heard the President propose. For example, mention "the child care initiative," or "full funding for Head Start."

   When calling Congress
  • Telephone number - (202)224-3121 This is a general number for Congress. Ask for the number of your Senator or Member of the House, and then ask for the person responsible for childcare.
  • Best time to call - when child-care legislation is being brought to floor for a vote.
  • To register your support - refer to the initiative proposed by the President. If legislation has already been introduced, reference the particular House or Senate bill. Mention that you work for children, and explain in a few short sentences why you think the measure is good for children.
   Helen Blank is a senior child-care associate at the Children's Defense Fund. She works for improved early childhood policies at the federal, state, and local levels.


Calling your legislator

Red Bullet Identify yourself by name and state that you are a constituent.
Red Bullet Explain why you are calling: "I am calling to support/oppose ____________."
Red Bullet Provide supporting information by focusing on two or three talking points explaining your position. Do not argue; just express your views.
Red Bullet Ask the legislator 's position.
Red Bullet If the legislator's position is the same as yours, express your agreement and thanks.
Red Bullet If your position differs from the legislator's, politely express disappointment and offer some factual information supporting your views.
Red Bullet Request a written response. Restate your name and provide your mailing address.
Red Bullet Thank the legislator or person taking the call for his/her time and consideration.
Red Bullet If appropriate, follow-up with a letter.
Red Bullet Remember these three rules when calling your legislator's office:
1) Give your full name and address.
2) Be polite.
3) Keep your call concise.

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