By: Rebecca Ghent, 2013-2014 KYA Intern
Every child in this state should have a chance to succeed. A lot of people are committed to making that idea a reality. As a social work student, I have had the opportunity to see the varied efforts of many people hard at work. I have seen it in people working in schools, in lawyers working with refugees and immigrants, and now at Kentucky Youth Advocates. I have met many people doing good work for children, but in very different ways.
In a world where there are so many immediate needs, it is difficult to think about the big picture. In Kentucky, more than one in four children lives in poverty. That means there are a lot of children that have immediate needs. Parents, teachers, schools, churches, and communities are working together to help these children. Social workers, like me, help children and families access programs to help them meet needs, too. But as a social worker, I also have an ethical obligation to support policies that would give all children a better future. Policy changes could reduce the number of children living poverty, and, in turn, reduce the number of emergent needs experienced by families in our state.
While interning at KYA, I have the unique opportunity to work exclusively on policy advocacy projects. Not all social workers have that experience. With the demands of every day work, it can be difficult to squeeze in enough time to jot down a letter to a senator or to catch a moment to see if a particular bill passed. I have been amazed, however, at the number of social workers, teachers, and other professionals who have stepped up to advocate for what is right for children. Busy people set aside enough time to attend events like Children’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol or the Face It® Movement rally to end child abuse. They attended meetings in Frankfort about reforming juvenile justice, and they fought hard to restore funding for the Child Care Assistance Program to help parents have affordable child care while they work.
With the hard work of many, decisions made in Frankfort this year have the potential to improve the situation of many Kentucky children. The most important thing I have learned is that when people work together, things can get done. To make our state a better place for children, we need people that work with our children every day, including parents, and the researchers that interpret data to get a picture of what is going on in our state. Together, we can make Kentucky a place where children are supported, healthy, and happy.