Editor’s note: This post is from Caitlin Pardue, our Lutheran Volunteer Corps member for 2011-2012. Today is her last day with us at Voices for Children. We are honored to have had her with us this year and wish her all the best in her future journey as an advocate for children and families.
“I came to Voices for Children a year ago, eager and excited, and with only a vague idea about what I was getting myself into. I was new to Nebraska, new to the Unicameral, and new to behavioral health.
In my first week, I was thrown into a flurry of movement around Medicaid regulations for PRFTs. ‘What the heck is a PRTF?’ was my first thought. Yet my ignorance of the complexities of out-of-home treatment became an asset as I worked with some amazing people at Boys Town to tell the story of how changes in Medicaid were really affecting kids. We created Johnny’s Journey to explain to an outsider (in this case, me) what was really going on.
Johnny’s Journey didn’t make everyone happy. But I was assured that that meant I must be doing something right.
As legislative session began, I dusted off my old college books on ‘how a bill becomes a law’ (Schoolhouse Rock might have been played a few times as well). I was impressed at how all of Voices for Children’s decision making was rooted in data and driven by the same question, ‘How will this affect kids?’
I learned that it’s not just the story that’s important, but HOW you tell the story. It was a fun challenge to take big, complicated systems, and distill them down into easy to understand concepts that could be quickly explained to an outsider. Deciding if my Grandma could understand what I was talking about in five minutes was always a good rule of thumb.
But I think the most important thing I have learned is that advocacy isn’t about standing on your soapbox and yelling at people to understand why you are right and why they are wrong. I’ve learned that being a true advocate means you have to listen. You have to listen to your community, to the research, to the opposing arguments. Sometimes that means working together to compromise, and sometimes that means taking a stand and being firm in what you believe is best for kids and best for Nebraska.
I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work at Voices for Children where I was challenged to always think critically and creatively. Carolyn likes to say that ‘at Voices for Children, we are telling the whole story.’ I feel honored to have been able to help tell the story of Nebraska’s kids this year.”