Joe Dorman

Recent Articles

Be a Surrogate Santa: Support OK Foster Wishes

Oklahoma-There are some projects that are so fun or rewarding that they just do not seem much like work.  One of those is an exciting new endeavor the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is taking on that will help spread some holiday cheer!  We were recently asked to help OK Foster Wishes and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) lead a gift drive that will ultimately deliver holiday presents to approximately 6,000 children in foster care. OK Foster Wishes has worked closely with DHS for years to assemble “wish lists” that foster kids and parents pass on to their caseworkers. OK Foster Wishes then matches those wish lists to Oklahomans who volunteer to buy a present on those lists, or to make a monetary donation that covers the costs. DHS then works to deliver those toys to the right children and families. This year, OICA is playing a lead role in raising toys and cash, and we are asking the public to help in one of two ways:
1.         Individuals interested in making a monetary contribution can donate online at or by calling (405) 236-5437. Continue Reading →

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Leadership Change on Criminal Justice Committee Offers a Golden Opportunity to Build Consensus

Oklahoma – For years, bipartisan consensus has been brewing around the notion that Oklahoma locks up too many non-violent offenders. The cost of that over-incarceration has been borne by taxpayers, who are on the hook for the state’s prison costs, and families, whose homes are left broken when one parent (or both) winds up in prison for crimes often related to addiction or mental health problems.

More and more Oklahomans are now calling for criminal justice reform that emphasizes rehabilitation and treatment over lengthy prison sentences for non-violent offenders. Unfortunately, many of those reforms have hit a wall in the State Legislature. Oftentimes, that wall has been the chair of the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, Rep. Scott Biggs. More than a dozen potential laws were filed earlier this year that moved smoothly through the legislative process until Biggs exercised his authority as committee chair and refused to allow them to be heard.  Biggs’ actions essentially slammed the breaks on most of the state’s meaningful justice reform measures. Continue Reading →

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Annual KIDS COUNT Conference to be Held Thursday, Nov. 2

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) is hosting their annual KIDS COUNT conference on Thursday, November 2. The conference brings together child advocates from across the state to raise awareness about key issues, share action strategies for meeting the needs of the state’s children and youth more effectively, and identify program and policy changes that will improve the health, safety, education and economic well-being of Oklahoma’s kids. The conference theme is “2018: Year of the Child.”

 Participants can register and view a preliminary agenda at Day-time activities begin at 8 AM at the Oklahoma State Capitol and include a gubernatorial candidate forum and a dozen different workshops for participants to choose from, covering subjects such as early childhood development, recognizing and reporting child abuse, and advocacy through the media. Workshops will culminate in participant-driven recommendations for a 2018 OICA Children’s Agenda. Continue Reading →

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OICA Builds on 35 Years of Advocacy

In 2018, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) will celebrate its 35th Anniversary.  Our mission, “Creating awareness, taking action and supporting policy to improve the health, safety and well-being of Oklahoma’s children” is a role we take very seriously each and every day. We consider our advocacy to be a 24/7, all-year job: our work at the Capitol continues before, during and after the legislative session. This certainly includes the current special session, where lawmakers are grappling with the task of producing a balanced budget that adequately funds children’s services. OICA and our grassroots network are actively communicating to legislators the importance of filling the current budget hole, a $200M shortfall created when a cigarette fee was ruled unconstitutional. Beyond that, however, we are encouraging them to look at other new revenue raising measures that would allow us to shore up core services in the future, rather than simply addressing today’s crisis. Continue Reading →

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Children’s Health Services Jeopardized by State and Federal Political Gridlock

Oklahoma- At the time of writing this column, our state elected officials are still at an impasse regarding a budget agreement and a resolution to the ongoing Special Session called by Governor Mary Fallin. OICA has been active in calling for Republicans and Democrats to work together to address the $215 million budget hole created after the courts struck down an unconstitutional cigarette fee. The $215 million reduction – which balloons to over $500M when federal matching funds are included — will either be spread across state government or, if no legislative action is taken, be shouldered exclusively by three agencies that oversee health care and social service programs. Neither scenario should be acceptable to voters or to our lawmakers. Several options for closing the budget hole have been discussed, including a (constitutional) $1.50 per pack cigarette tax hike, an increase in income taxes for high earners, and an increase in the gasoline tax. Other ideas presented have dealt with taxing “luxury” services, like tattooing and lawn care.  The increase in the gross production tax has been something discussed by the public, but has gained little traction inside the Capitol among the Republican supermajority.  Meanwhile, OICA has called upon our elected officials to reinstate at least a portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit which assists families struggling to make ends meet as a form of tax relief. Continue Reading →

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Actions and Consequences in Life and Politics


Sometimes in life, the actions we take and the relationships we form have consequences that only reveal themselves years later. I was reminded of this recently when I crossed paths with an individual I first met almost 15 years ago. When I was campaigning for my first election as a state representative in 2002, I was active in reaching out to students and asking them to get involved in the political process. Even if they couldn’t vote, these young men and women could knock doors, canvas neighborhoods and make a real impact on the election. My campaign benefitted from the work and energy of a small group of very dedicated student-activists, and they benefitted from making a meaningful connection with the political process. Continue Reading →

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OICA Accepting Nominations for Laura Choate Resilience Award

Oklahoma-The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) is now accepting nominations online for the Laura Choate Resilience Award. The award was created to celebrate individuals who have overcome significant childhood adversity to make a lasting contribution to the lives of young people. Nominees have exhibited bravery and demonstrated a dedication to fostering resilience in Oklahoma children. The public can submit nominations through until September 29 at 5 PM. This award is named for Laura Choate, who served as a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit that helped to uncover and reform widespread abuse and neglect within the state’s  juvenile justice system. Continue Reading →

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State Government is Failing to Help the Needy

Oklahoma-If you have driven the H.E. Bailey Turnpike south from Oklahoma City, you have most likely seen a billboard that reads, “Government takes from the Needy and gives to the Greedy,” a statement that is famously attributed to President Ronald Reagan. The quote is from a speech that Reagan gave before Congress, where he basically discusses how government programs often do not actually serve those truly in need. He believed far too many people abuse the system, benefiting from services they do not need or should be providing for themselves. To this day, we regularly hear this concern from many politicians who argue for cutting spending, citing “waste, fraud and abuse” within government.  While I believe the overwhelming majority of taxpayer dollars are used to support essential and necessary programs, sometimes these fiscal hawks are right. That’s why OICA was proud to support legislation this past session to improve the use of audits for agencies, helping to verify that dollars are truly going to benefit who Ronald Reagan described as “the needy,” rather than being wasted or misappropriated to “the greedy.”

With that being said, we are now facing an entirely different dilemma when it comes to state government: a massive revenue shortfall that is starving state agencies and eroding the quality of our government services. Continue Reading →

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A Crisis Moment for the State Budget


Oklahoma-This week the Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether several revenue raising measures, including a cigarette fee, will be deemed constitutional or not.  If the court upholds the constitutionality of these measures, state agencies will regain some semblance of stability through the remainder of the fiscal year (although most are still struggling from years of cuts and under-funding). If the court instead strikes down these measures, agencies could see debilitating double digit reductions to their budgets. Needless to say, should the latter happen, major services will be reduced or eliminated, especially preventative measures helping families and individual Oklahomans better their lives. Even the best-case scenarios would see many programs benefiting Oklahoma’s children suffer greatly. That we find ourselves in this situation is unacceptable. Continue Reading →

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Protecting Children from School Bullying

Oklahoma-It is almost time for more than 700,000 children in Oklahoma to return to school!  With the return of the school year, anxiety can run high, sometimes leading to some traumatic issues.  One of the most stressful situations children face is how to deal with bullying. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some good suggestions on how to deal with bullying issues. Bullying, or the modern form of cyberbullying, is when one child or more picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school or on a school bus, in the neighborhood, over the Internet, or on computers and smart phones. Continue Reading →

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