Children’s Legislative Agenda Set, Advocate Training Slated for January

Joe Dorman, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy 
The 2021 legislative session is fast approaching, one more sign that 2020 is almost in the rearview mirror. Now is the time for child advocates to begin preparing for what likely will be a very interesting year at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
I am reminded of the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.

With the likelihood that a COVID-19 vaccination will not be ready in time for the second of the four phases of distribution, the first half of the session might look much like last year when legislators met virtually and voted in small groups.

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) worked with lawmakers to ensure priority bills supported by our team were submitted before the bill-filing deadline on Friday, December 11.

Last month, nearly 200 child advocates met virtually during our 2020 Fall Forum. The advocates learned about issues in child advocacy and how the pandemic has impacted services. These advocates also worked in various sessions to help shape a series of recommendations for lawmakers’ consideration.

Advocates focused on four policy areas important to children’s futures:

    • Modernization and technology usage for child advocates;
    • Economic challenges facing Oklahoma families;
    • Student health and well-being; and
    • Health care and insurance issues.

Each session had dozens of policy experts discussing how Oklahoma measures up in each category. The dialogue produced a document we intend to help direct policymakers at the State Capitol and within state agencies to improve conditions faced by our state’s youngest residents.

While not everyone will agree on each point of consideration, we hope those in power will keep an open mind to the proposal submitted by those working for children all across our state.
To read our proposal – the 2021 Children’s Legislative Agenda  ( – go to . There you can read this document, see the list of press releases we have issued, and review a host of other materials focused on our efforts to make Oklahoma a better state for its children.

While you are there, consider signing up for our next training. For years, OICA and other programs considered developing a training session for advocates. The goal is for advocates to better understand the legislative process, allowing them to be more effective in working with lawmakers. 
OICA will expand the scope of the training we traditionally sponsor on the first day of the annual legislative training to meet that need.

In 2021, OICA will conduct our legislative training over four days, virtually on the Zoom platform. Using that format will allow our traditional workshops on the legislative process while advocates have a chance to learn specific nuances of the House of Representatives and Senate operations.

The Legislative Learning Lab ( will be on the final Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of January. The lab will conclude on the first Monday in February, the first day of the legislative session. The Legislative Learning Lab will be “the freshmen orientation lawmakers and advocates need but have never received.”

To review the schedule, which will look at the timeline for considering bills, the appropriations process, redistricting, practical discussions with the media, coalition building, and much more, go to our website. There, you also can sponsor and register for the first Legislative Learning Lab. 

We hope this training will allow advocates like you to present a stronger voice in 2021 and help us fulfill our role as the voice for Oklahoma’s children.

NOTE: Joe Dorman’s commentaries and news summaries often appear on, an independent news service based in Oklahoma City, and occasionally in the locally-owned community newspaper, The City Sentinel. Dorman is executive director at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.