Recent Articles

For the Children: Free Comic Book Day Helps to Boost Reading and Literacy


Oklahoma – I am taking a week off from discussing the Oklahoma Legislature and politics to share some important news: May 6 is Free Comic Book Day in the United States! As a collector of comics, I am excited about this day for obvious reasons. But as the CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, I am excited about the way in which it can be used to jump-start our children’s interest in reading, their imaginations, and ultimately their literacy levels. If you were not aware before, you are now: I collect comic books. When I was running for governor in 2014, my staff was actually afraid it might cost me votes. Continue Reading →

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For the Children: A Cost-Cutting Measure That Hurts Kids

With a $900 million budget shortfall dominating this year’s legislative session, many lawmakers are looking to balance the budget by cutting government spending. As advocates for children, our job at OICA is to shield Oklahoma’s youngest and most vulnerable residents from any “cost-cutting” measures that would adversely impact them and, in some cases, negatively change the trajectory of their entire lives. One of those measures is Senate Bill 81, which seeks to lower the grade level at which a student can be suspended from school. Currently, out-of-school suspension is only allowable at the 6th grade level and above. SB 81 would allow children as early as third grade (only 8 or 9 years old) to be suspended.  In addition, the bill would reduce the requirements for counseling programs available to these children, who are the ones who need it the most. Continue Reading →

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For the Children – Is Your Glass Half-Full?

I try to be a “glass half-full” kind of person, but there are times when parts of your world can wear you down.  We all experience this to some extent, but it is how you deal with these situations that determines the outcome and impact on your own life and those around you. Far too many children in Oklahoma experience negative circumstances which can change the course of their entire lives. The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy asked Dr. Jennifer Hays-Grudo serve as the keynote speaker on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) for our annual KIDS COUNT Conference.  Dr. Hays-Grudo discussed the results of studies across the United States with children 17 and under and the trauma associated with their childhood.  Not surprisingly, of the categories tested, Oklahoma ranked at the top with the highest percentage of children experiencing childhood trauma that followed them into adulthood. You can view slides from her presentation at for more details. We face a generational cycle of trauma which simply will not be fixed overnight.  Our 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book showed slight improvement from recently collected statistics, so we must not backtrack.  There is far more work needed to continue solutions within the Oklahoma State Capitol and the various agencies, as well as neighborhoods and communities. Continue Reading →

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Infants and Children Suffer Grief

Queen City, TX- My husband came into my office and said that his nephew had called wanting to know if he needed to make a flight reservation to Hawaii.  Our middle daughter has recently moved there, and my husband mentioned to his sister a few days ago, that perhaps we should all meet in Hawaii for a family reunion.  My husband also mentioned that his nephew wanted to become a private pilot, and I commented that I thought that would be wonderful.  I continued, “If he (the nephew) were to become a private pilot like you (my husband), we could all meet up somewhere fun, like Branson.”  He said, ” Oh no, not my sister, she won’t fly.”  I asked, “Why won’t she fly?” That was when my day changed. My husband informed me that his sister had had two sons, but that one had died two years ago, in a plane crash, not far from our home.  His words struck me deep in my heart.  I could not help it; I began to cry.  I cried all day.  I was so heartbroken for his sister. My husband was separated from his paternal family as an infant.  We, my husband and I, have been married for 29 years, and for 29 years, we have diligently searched for them.  My husband did not share his father’s last name.  Indeed, until recently, he did not even know it.  It was not until this past summer when our youngest daughter went back east to visit her grandmother (my husband’s mother), that she was able to extract secret information regarding my husband’s father.  Our daughter is a genealogist sleuth, and with just the slightest clue, she can discover all sorts of lost information.  With the few clues she pulled from her grandmother, she located my husband’s family within just a few hours. Over the years, my husband has always insisted that deep down inside he knew he had a sister.  It turns out he was right.  His sister, who lost her son two years ago, is slightly older than my husband and knew him as an infant.  She has actually been looking for my husband all of these years.  Although she has a different mother, she lived in the same household with my husband upon his birth.  As older siblings do, she assisted in his care until the parent’s relationship severed.  Although my husband was an infant at the time, and could not consciously remember his sister, he had bonded with her and longed for her love.  The sudden loss of his older sister’s love and companionship caused him, even as an infant, to grieve for her. Continue Reading →

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