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‘Tis the Season to Give to Foster Children

With Thanksgiving behind us, ‘tis the season for holiday decorations, non-stop Christmas music on the radio, and a lot of hard work for the public employees, OICA staff and volunteers working to get holiday presents for the roughly 8,000 Oklahoma children in foster care. That effort begins with caseworkers at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS), who collect holiday wish lists from each foster child. Next, those wish lists are matched with partner organizations like OK Foster Wishes, the gift drive run by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) that works to fulfill these wish-lists with the help of generous donors. We are proud to say that OK Foster Wishes is the largest gift-drive for foster children in the state, fulfilling more than half of the Oklahoma foster children’s wish lists. OICA and DHS operate the OK Foster Wishes warehouse (a space being generously lent to us, free of charge, by Hobby Lobby) where gifts are stored, sorted and eventually sent out to children. Continue Reading →

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Children of Military Families Need Additional Support

Veterans Day is a wonderful and necessary holiday and a great time to give thanks to those that serve our nation. However, as we move on from this day, it is important to keep the needs of our veterans and active military personnel – as well as their families and children – on our minds all year. According to the US Census, there are 21,369,602 veterans in the United States, with 312,492 veterans currently living in Oklahoma.  That does not include the 1.3 million military personnel and more than 800,000 reserve forces serving nationwide, or the roughly 20,000 service members now living in Oklahoma. In the modern military, families experience increased stress from multiple deployments and longer tours of duty. Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, the United States has seen the largest sustained deployment of military servicemen and servicewomen in the history of the all-volunteer force. Continue Reading →

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Friday (11/2): OK Foster Wishes Kickoff Party

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) will be kicking off its annual holiday gift drive for children in foster care tomorrow (Friday, November 2) from 5-7 PM at the Oklahoma’s Credit Union building at 3001 N. Lincoln Blvd in Oklahoma City. OK Foster Wishes is a collaboration between OICA, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, and several other non-profits that provide transportation, storage and monetary support. Each year, OK Foster Wishes matches gift “wish lists” from children in foster care with adult donors who purchase the gifts for specific children. Attendees at tomorrow’s party will receive a wish list or, alternatively, can make a cash donation or bring a gift (gifts not paired with wish lists will be distributed to children and families who did not submit a list). OK Foster Wishes Kickoff Party Details

Friday, November 2
5 – 7 PM
Oklahoma Credit Union: 3001 N. Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Continue Reading →

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Shining a Light on Children’s Issues Ahead of Election Day

Just one week to go before Election Day!  I am sure most Oklahomans are ready for this campaign cycle to end and see what the future holds for Oklahoma. As a 501c3 non-profit organization, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is prohibited from endorsing any candidate or party. Although I am from a political background myself, I have come to greatly appreciate our non-partisan role, as I believe it makes our organization a more effective force for improving the lives of children. No matter which party is in power, or who is running for office, OICA is able to shine a light on the issues that matter most to children. One way we have impacted the 2018 elections is through our candidate surveys, which you can find at OICA.org. Continue Reading →

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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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