Together, Inching Closer to a Tipping Point on Children's Issues

Together, Inching Closer to a Tipping Point on Children's Issues

By: Mary Nelle Trefz, HealthConnect Fellow, Child and Family Policy Center

As I reflect on the 2018 legislative session and how kids fared, I am left with mixed emotions:

  • I am relieved that some of the damaging proposals didn’t pass (e.g. implementing harsh work requirements in Medicaid and other public assistance programs) didn’t pass.
  • I am concerned with some of the bill signed into law and their implications (e.g. the tax bill that will cost the state over $400 million a year by 2021).
  • I am excited about the opportunities we have to build on (e.g. an executive order that takes the first step in formally establishing a children’s mental health system in Iowa).
  • I am frustrated about the missed opportunities (e.g. effective oversight and accountability for the managed care organizations running Iowa’s Medicaid program remain elusive).
  • I am hopeful that some important programs and services saw their funding restored from previous cuts (e.g. funding for hearing aids and/or audiological services for children who are not covered by health insurance).
  • But most of all, I am appreciative of the tireless work by advocates who gave their time, expertise, and passion to lifting their collective voice on behalf of the children of Iowa.

It is this collective voice that I think will help us reach the tipping point in making children’s issues a priority for our elected officials. We aren’t there yet, but I think we will eventually arrive. Often, when we think about the tipping point we visualize the final push or little nudge that gets us over the edge. I don’t think we spend enough time thinking about (or appreciating) the long, concerted effort that is required to get us to the precipice. Getting to the tipping point requires building consensus on strategy and outcomes. It requires shared and consistent messaging. It requires both persistence and the ability to be nimble—to react and respond to emerging threats and opportunities. As child advocates, I think we are doing most of these things and doing a lot of them well. But in order to inch closer to that tipping point I think we must continue to work on how we frame the issues we care about (children’s health, early care and education, child welfare, etc.). How we frame these issues can help illuminate shared interests and identify opportunities to engage others as we work to make children’s issues a priority. Together, we can reach the tipping point and ensure children in our state are what matter most.