The summer disappeared as quickly as it arrived. As we entered the fourth quarter of the year, we at Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families, or AACF, realized a tremendous amount of work remained. I am certain many of you felt the same way.
The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation—based in Little Rock—declared October as Advocacy & Organizing Month in Arkansas. This is an opportunity for groups like AACF to receive some recognition for the work we do—but much more importantly, it allows us to engage with potential partners that may not fully understand our mission. The Rockefeller Foundation has been a remarkable partner in Arkansas, devoting its resources to organizations that work to eliminate poverty in our state.
Earlier this month, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation hosted a convening to highlight its Moving the Needle Working Group—of which AACF is an original member—and what those members do in the community. We were happy to present a great example of how coalitions can make a big impact, highlighting our Invest Early Coalition. The Invest Early Coalition promotes early childhood education in Arkansas. Thanks to hard work by the Department of Human Services and dozens of direct service providers statewide, the Arkansas Better Chance, or ABC, program has changed the lives of thousands of Arkansas children. Leaders statewide say that the Invest Early Coalition and groups like Pre-K Now forced the issue, and the state is now seeing results of those investments.
Also in October the AACF outreach director was able to travel to Washington to meet with a number of our lawmakers and their staffs. Talking about early education and Medicaid, we were pleased to hear our members of Congress talk about their commitment to protecting early education programs in addition to making sure our state is protected in any Medicaid reform legislation. Until the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction makes its recommendations, though, we intend to continue to talk to our lawmakers about the benefits of Medicaid to the Arkansas’s economy.
The month of October ends with a special treat for us. We plan to host Desmond Brown, a consultant with the Half in Ten campaign, for a special luncheon presentation on Half in Ten’s new report, which establishes a baseline for tracking poverty reduction progress. A joint venture with the Clinton School of Public Service, the event provides us with a great opportunity to continue to identify the causes of poverty in our state and learn how Arkansas compares to similarly situated states. Students, advocates, and concerned citizens have been invited to join us at the Clinton School to hear Desmond present findings from the report and discuss solutions that will move the indicators in the right direction. The event, which will be held on October 31, is an appropriate way to end a month focused on touting the success and importance of advocacy and organizing coalitions.