The following are some recommendations for making your visits with legislators as productive as possible:
- State your purpose. Make it clear who you are, where you are from, and why you have asked for this meeting. Be prepared with your information and handouts. Decide ahead of time who will introduce the group and the order in which you will present.
- Tell your story. Practice your story ahead of time and choose the aspects that most directly relate to the legislation you are promoting. In the case of advocating for permanency, for example, be sure to focus your remarks on how important it is for children and youth to have permanent families, and how critical accessible, competent programs are to meet the ongoing needs for children who have been in foster care.
- Ask for what you want. Tell your legislator the specific action you would like for him or her to take in support of your request. Be specific if you have a specific change you want to see in a law or policy.
- Make your politics local. Let the legislator know how the issues you care about relate to his or her constituents, and how they can help children in care, adoptees, and adoptive parents in their districts. Service providers can share successes their programs have had and challenges they face, such as sustainable funding to meet the needs of children and youth. Parents and youth can communicate how parent and youth led services have made a difference. Share data from your state or province if you have it. The data can show the scope of an issue, while personal stories help put a human face on the complicated funding issues.
- Stay on point. Know the purpose of your meetings and stick to it. Try as hard as possible to stay on message, and keep the conversation focused on this legislation. Avoid getting sidetracked by other policy discussions.
- Don’t bluff. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it. Tell your legislator that you don’t know but that you will follow up and get back to him or her with the information.
- Leave evidence. Bring materials to leave that talk about what your program does, key statistics in foster care and adoption, or other relevant topics. It may be helpful to walk through the packet during the meeting so that the aide knows what information is included.
- Follow up. Thank the legislator or staff person for their time. Be sure to send a thank you letter or email, in which you should either make your ask again or thank them for their responsiveness. Phone calls may be appropriate as well.