Below are advocacy strategies that parent groups and other adoption advocates have tried. Some are small and more easily accomplished, while other require a committed group of advocates. Choose the strategy that works best for your goals—and your resources.
Raising Awareness with Legislators
Set up Legislative Open Houses
Think about hosting an open house when your elected officials are not in session and have more time to meet and talk with constituents. Invite 6 to 12 parents from your voting district to your home to share their family stories with legislators. This setting offers more time to talk about issues, and allows policy makers to see constituents in their home district. It gives you an opportunity to get to know your officials, and when a bill comes up in the next legislative session, you will have already established a personal relationship. Your state or provincial foster and adoptive parent association may be able to coordinate these open houses statewide.
Organize Parent/Caregiver Day at the Legislature
Ask your group members if they are interested in organizing a day at the capitol for foster and adoptive parents. You can coordinate a rally at the capitol and have parents and youth tell their stories. Have parents schedule a meeting with their legislators in advance of the event.
Create a Visual Display
Parent groups have tried many ways to get the attention of legislators. Some have collected shoes and teddy bears to represent the number of children in foster care in their state or province. Parents attending a conference luncheon were once asked to write the name of each child who had lived in their homes on separate paper dolls. Different paper colors represented foster, adoptive, kinship, and biological children. The dolls were hung hand-to-hand throughout a ballroom at an evening political event. This same idea could be used at the capitol during the legislative session or at a conference for social workers. One parent suggested placing larger cardboard cut outs attached to painting stir sticks in the grass at the capitol or department of social services—one for each child in care.
Plan a Foster Doll Project
A number of advocacy groups have collected used dolls and have given one to each legislator. Legislators become the doll’s de facto foster parent for a specified period of time. The dolls are given a name, life story, and placement folder and brought to the capitol in strollers and wagons. During the campaign, volunteers make regular visits to legislators, spending time educating legislators about foster care and adoption. Legislators can receive mail from foster and adopted children, data on foster care and adoption statistics, the number of children in the counties represented by the legislators, and more. Some of the states who have been successful with this project are Nevada, Alabama, Kansas, and Minnesota. Click here to learn more about implementing a foster doll project.
Raising Public Awareness
Use the Media
Tap into local television, radio, or print media for special events and especially take advantage of Foster Care Month in May and Adoption Month in November. If you are coordinating an event with children or families who would photograph well or be a good human interest segment, contact your local television station or newspaper to see if they will cover your event. Try to find out if local news anchors or reporters have a connection to foster care or adoption. Think about scheduling a radio interview with a spokesperson from your group. When you consider print media, think beyond traditional newspapers. Many community newspapers will give you space for articles you have written. Search for those serving communities of color, the elderly, or disabled.
Make a Shopping Mall Display
Many shopping malls allow community members to set up a public display. You can display cardboard cut outs or foster dolls (both described below), while volunteers distribute materials and talk to shoppers about foster care and adoption.