Our Children, Our Future Releases 2016 Platform

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “Mental Health Matters” leads the 2016 legislative platform for the Our Children, Our Future campaign.

It is number one on a list of ten items the campaign and it’s partners want to focus on; including increasing access to after-school programs and helping low-income parents acquire the necessary tools to return to work.

“Child poverty is our focus, but that’s not one thing,” West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition Executive Director Stephen Smith said on the MetroNews-affiliated “The Mike Queen Show” last week. “There’s no silver bullet. So focus on the issues where we have a real solution in place.”

The platform is democratically chosen by nearly 2600 campaign partners and participants.

“What are the most important issues in this community?” Smith said. “What should we take on next year? And then literally anyone can submit an idea.”

The process can take anywhere between six months to a full calendar year. Anyone can get involved in the process of forming the legislative goals, but the process eventually whittles the list down to the most important issues before the voting begins.

“Anybody who’s a part of the campaign or part of one of our partner organizations can vote on that platform,” he said. “And it’s old fashioned democracy. The top ten issues become our platform next year.”

The voting members comprise community leaders from throughout the entire state who participate in the broader campaign and coalition.

“And that’s I think what makes us really unique,” he said. “We’re not some group based in Charleston that sits around the table and makes us all the decision. It’s everyday people all around the state saying ‘the most important thing to me is x-y-z’ and those are what dictate what the campaign is going to look like.”

Smith said that when members choose, they’re often choosing the things that they believe are most likely to eventually become public policy in the world we live in–not the one we wished we did.

“We try to be really intentional about picking issues and working closely with legislators and allies all across the political spectrum so that the issues we vote on are things that we can actually move,” Smith said.

The campaign does not make political endorsements, which in many cases makes it easier for them to work with both sides of the political aisle.

“Sometimes that means we’re working against some people from one party, and sometimes it means we’re working against some other people from another party, but we’re all grown-ups here,” Smith said.

The list, in order, includes:

  1. 1. Mental Health Matters
  2.  Protecting Quality Child Care Centers
  3. Right to Work is Wrong
  4. Second Chance for Employment
  5. Tax Reform to Protect Roads, Children, Seniors, and Jobs
  6. Juvenile Justice: Redirect and Reinvest
  7. Stop Meth Labs
  8. Increasing Local Food Access & Profitability
  9. Afterschool for All!
  10. Expand Broadband Access

Read more about these ten issues here.

The organization’s primary goal of combating child poverty is broken up into a wide array of issues. Using a new metric called the “Self-Sufficiency Index,” OCOF claims that 48 percent of West Virginia families are currently unable to make ends meet.