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Three Key Interim Studies Focus on Children’s Issues

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) has had the opportunity over the past few months to work with state lawmakers on various issues covered in legislative interim studies.  If you are not familiar with these, state senators and representatives can request from the presiding officer of their respective chambers the opportunity to delve into a topic about an issue of importance.  Prior to the deadline for the filing period, we reached out to several lawmakers to request topics which would focus on important issues for Oklahoma children and families. The first study in which we played a part was the Oklahoma Senate study reviewing the topic of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma-Informed Care.  This was a follow-up study to the one held last year in the House of Representatives by Rep. Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore.  Senator AJ Griffin filed this study prior to her departure from the Legislature, and we were pleased to continue that work with Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City and Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada.  The study assembled some of the best and brightest minds in Oklahoma regarding this topic and the seven lawmakers who were present asked very relevant questions.  I am certain this effort will lead to great work by the Trauma-Informed Care Task Force authored by Sen. Griffin and Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa in Senate Bill 1517 this past session.  In fact, there will be follow-up legislation to expand the membership and scope of the study to include greater regional representation for a statewide presence. The next study in which OICA participated was one requested by Senator Allison Ikley-Freeman, D-Tulsa, which reviewed school suspension policy in Oklahoma.  The assembled presenters discussed the issues impacting students who face either in-school or out-of-school suspension in our state.  There has been legislation the past two years to modify how suspensions are treated for students who commit assault on a teacher or another student. Violence in the classroom is an extremely serious issue and something that absolutely must be dealt with. However, OICA continues to encourage policymakers not to simply back new laws that increase punishments for children who act out. Continue Reading →

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Grandparents Play a Key Role in Raising Children

For many youngsters, grandparents play a significant role in raising us and molding us into the people we become.  I often think about my extended family and how lucky I was to have so many people in my life who cared about me and helped me grow and develop.  Many Oklahoma children, unfortunately, are not as fortunate as I was; they do not have an older generation of family members in their lives who can teach and assist them in their formative years. While it is a well-documented fact that many children are lacking positive adult role models, the state is inadvertently exacerbating that situation, especially when it comes to grandparents. In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville, the Supreme Court discussed parents’ fundamental rights to raise and rear their own children. It should be noted though, the Troxel case refused to strike down a Washington state law granting substantial grandparent visitation. Due to this, the Troxel case left states with varying degrees of grandparent visitation throughout the nation. Continue Reading →

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Journalists Fight for Those Without Money or Power

It is important to have people in your life who will motivate you at a young age to achieve beyond what others might feel is possible.  Having someone who believes in you can make a world of difference on in life. I am fortunate that I have had many like that who have encouraged me to go above and beyond what even I felt was my greatest potential. One of those individuals, unfortunately, passed away recently.  Jim Killackey was a longtime Oklahoman reporter who covered education and health-related issues for many years, some of those during the time I was a student at Oklahoma State University.  He, indirectly, was one of those who helped encourage me without ever knowing it. I had the opportunity and the pleasure to serve as a student senator and as the Chairman of the Student Government Association Senate during my undergraduate years.  In that role, I was a watchdog for my fellow students to ensure they were treated fairly as constituents in the student body. I often disagreed with members of the university administration and was vocal about my feelings. Continue Reading →

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Raising Awareness by Honoring Champions for Children

When I took the helm at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA), the board of directors made it clear the mission of our organization needed to move back to our roots. Our mission is “creating awareness, taking action, and supporting policy to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.”

Part of raising awareness about children’s issues is recognizing the good work that is already being done in our community. That recognition not only assigns credit where credit is due, but also encourages others to do good work as well. OICA’s way of encouraging that recognition is through our two premiere awards: the Laura Choate Resilience Award and the Moran Kidizenship Awards. OICA is now accepting nominations for both, through September 14th, and we hope the public will nominate many deserving recipients (nominees can be submitted at OICA.org). Continue Reading →

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54th annual Austin Trail of Lights Powered by H-E-B Announced for Dec. 10-23, 2018

Austin, Texas’ most vibrant holiday winter attraction is back for its 54th year; announces activities, event calendar and more

 

AUSTIN, Texas:  The Trail of Lights Foundation today announces dates for the 54th annual Austin Trail of Lights, powered by H-E-B, running from Monday, Dec. 10 through Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018 in Austin’s beloved Zilker Park. Since it began in 1965, the Austin Trail of Lights has grown into one of the city’s largest events, attracting an average of 400,000 people from all over the state and country per year. Every holiday season, Austin’s iconic Zilker Park is transformed into the Trail of Lights with more than two million lights, 65+ displays, 30 food trucks, three entertainment stages, 50 private holiday parties and interactive experiences throughout the park. Last year, the Austin Trail of Lights was recognized as a Top 10 lighting or holiday event by USA Today, Yahoo and Southern Living and was deemed the second largest event in Austin, according to the Austin Business Journal (2017). Continue Reading →

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Music Festival For A Cause Celebrates San Antonio’s 300th Anniversary At The Sunken Garden Theater

SAN ANTONIO, TX:   Texas-based nonprofit for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (HOH), Aid the Silent, partners with hearing-solution industry leaders to host second annual all-accessible festival in San Antonio, TX. The Good Vibrations Music & Arts Festival (GVMAF), open to hearing individuals and persons with hearing loss, will take place at the historic Sunken Garden Theater Saturday, September 29, 2018 from 1 p.m. – 11 p.m. The event is an official Tricentennial Community Partner that will honor San Antonio and Bexar County’s 300th anniversary. GVMAF benefits Aid the Silent’s efforts to provide accessibility and equality to deaf youth. The Good Vibrations Music & Arts Festival is an all-day, family-friendly event featuring popular musicians Parachute, American Idol winner Kris Allen, Penny & Sparrow, Willow City, Zoë Nutt, Ryan Scott Travis, Emma Faye Rudkin, Sarah Spivey and Adopted Kids. With dozens of vendor booths, games and photo opportunities, there is something for everyone to enjoy. GVMAF is open to people of all ages. Continue Reading →

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Free School Lunch Programs Deserve Our Support

In an August 11 editorial, the Oklahoman newspaper argued for greater accountability for some parents who accept free school lunches for their children. “A policy that tells parents they’re free to freeload comes with predictable costs to all taxpayers,” the paper writes. The authors point to a story by Chalkbeat Colorado showing that costs increased for a Denver Public School district after schools adopted a policy to provide hot meals to all students (including those whose parents have an income high enough not to qualify for free or reduced cost lunches). After the policy change, schools expenses for unreimbursed meals ballooned from $13,000 to $356,000. The Denver policy may be an example of a well-intentioned but poorly thought-out plan. Continue Reading →

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History Proves Children Can Change the World

As we at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) work to help reform and improve public policy, one of the most frustrating things we hear is the mistaken assumption that children cannot or should not try to change the world. Young people, some say, should “wait their turn” to speak out on social issues or take on a community leadership role. While I agree that life experience is important, I would contend that passion, a willingness to learn, the and the ability to think with an open mind are equally as important. Often, these qualities are easier to find in children than adults, who can be closed-minded or unwilling to consider new information. I would also argue that some young people, even in their few years on this Earth, have had tremendous experiences that make them the most effective champions we need for positive change. Continue Reading →

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Remember the Children in Upcoming Elections

A historic number of Oklahomans voted in the 2018 Oklahoma primary elections. Regardless of your party affiliation or political beliefs, it was great to see an active and engaged citizenry getting out and voting. For the majority of elected positions, the primary elections determined who each party’s nominee will be for the November 6 general election. In races where candidates did not break the 50 percent threshold, however, there will now be a run-off election between the two top vote-getters on August 28, just a few weeks away. At that time we will see seven runoffs for the statewide ballot on the Republican ticket, a runoff for the Gubernatorial election for the Libertarian Party, a race for the Democratic ticket with Oklahoma Corporation Commission, state and federal legislative races and many county positions. Continue Reading →

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Oklahoma: State Question 793 Meets National Resistance Among Vision Health Professionals

Walmart Backed Constitutional Amendment Would Allow Big Box Stores to Control How Eye Doctors Practice Medicine and Treat their Patients

Optometric physicians across the country are working to oppose State Question 793, a Walmart-backed proposal to put optometry clinics in big box stores. In addition to the Armed Forces Optometric Society, a national organization representing optometric physicians in the military, associations of optometrists in Alaska, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia are all working to oppose the initiative, which will appear on the November ballot in Oklahoma. Vision Source, a national network of optometric physicians, and IDOC, an optometric alliance with over 3000 members, are also opposing SQ 793. Eye doctors are alarmed and united in opposition to the language in SQ 793 that states the measure “does not prohibit optometrists or opticians from agreeing with retail mercantile establishments to limit their practice.” That language allows Walmart and other corporate giants to define the services their optometrists can offer, limiting the kind of full service eye-exam optometric physicians regularly perform and replacing it with a faster and more profitable check-up designed to sell glasses. Dr. Brendhan Fritts of Duncan said that allowing Walmart to limit scope of practice would directly harm patients, especially those with degenerative diseases or serious conditions that might go ignored in the kind of simple vision screenings big box stores want to provide. Continue Reading →

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