Let your legislator see quality early education and health supports in action!
Having your legislator come to your program for a site visit is one of the most impactful ways you to advocate for your needs as an early childhood professional. A site visit gives a legislator the opportunity to see firsthand the importance of quality settings for early learning and healthy development, the way quality standards are implemented, and the challenges you face to reaching and maintaining quality. Furthermore, legislators may be interested in learning more about how critical your program's role is for surrounding communities, how site administrators deal with various funding entities and collaborative partners, and how other stakeholders can be involved.
Preparing for a Legislator Site Visit
1. Invite your legislator to participate in a site visit.
Once you have identified your legislator, you can simply call their office to extend an invitation to join you for a site visit. When you call, be sure to have several date options and to schedule as far in as advance as possible. This will give you the best chance of finding a date that works. Plan for the visit to last about one hour.
2. Create an agenda for the visit and invite additional participants.
After you have solidified a date and time for your legislator to visit your program, determine who else should participate in the visit and how to structure your legislator's time. Additional participants may include parents, teachers, program staff, or engaged local leaders who can help articulate the critical need for investing in quality early learning and healthy development. Once you have determined who will participate, create an agenda to keep the visit focused and ensure you and share with all participants, including your legislator. Check out a sample agenda for more information about what to include in your site visit.
3. Secure photo releases from program participants (if needed).
If you would like to share pictures of the legislator with children from your program, or if you'd like to allow the legislator to share pictures from the visit, be sure to have parents sign a photo release form. If you don't have your own, feel free to use this sample release.
4. Prepare your staff and additional participants.
In the days leading up to the site visit, be sure to prepare your staff. There is no need to alter daily operations at your program unless you want to highlight a specific activity during the legislator's time there. Consider having a brief planning meeting in advance of the visit with your staff and any additional participants to share the agenda, expectations, overarching goals of the visit, and each participant's role. In order to convey a lot of information in a short period of time, it is critical that each participant understands the flow of the visit and what message they are responsible for delivering during their allotted time.
5. Prepare yourself.
In the days leading up to the site visit, prepare yourself by making sure you are able to articulate a clear, concise overview of the challenges facing Ohio's early learning system, the case for supporting investments in quality early learning, and a specific ask for your legislator.
During the Site Visit
1. Start with a brief welcome and overview of your program.
When your legislator arrives, start with a warm welcome and overview of your program. You should share how many and what ages of children are served, the goals of your program, whether you serve families with subsidies, any certifications or your star-rating (or where you are in the process of achieving a star-rating) in Step Up to Quality, etc.
2. Highlight the ways your program promotes healthy development and early learning.
For experts in the early learning and health space, evidence-based practices and quality curriculum are easy to spot. But for those outside the field, it can be difficult to determine how critical components such as quality teacher-child interactions and play-based activities translate to positive outcomes for kids. As you guide your legislator around the facility, be sure to point out the ways your staff's interactions and program activities translate to desired program goals.
3. Provide opportunities to engage with the kids.
Whether or not you offer the opportunity for a photo with the children, be sure to give your legislator an opportunity to engage with the kids. This could be through a more structured activity (e.g. reading a story to the class) or during an unstructured free-play period.
4. Share multiple perspectives.
Be sure to include many, varied voices during your legislator's visit. This may mean including additional administrators or teachers from your program to explain activities, operating costs, etc. or may be external voices like parents or community leaders who can share the impact your program has had.
5. Remain focused on your goal.
Throughout the legislator's visit, it is important that you remain focused on the goal of the visit—to make a strong case for supporting your policy and/or budget asks. Refrain from using industry jargon and focus on conveying those elements that will best support your ask and ensure all participants have a clear understanding of their role.
6. Make a clear ask.
Now that you have made a strong case for investing in early learning and healthy development, it's time to share how your legislator can support increased access and quality within our system. Don't know what your "ask" should be? Contact us for more information.
1. Share the visit on social media.
Share the visit on social media, in your newsletter, on your website, etc. When possible, tag your legislator in the posts and share pictures from the visit.
2. Send a thank you note and follow up information.
Always follow up with a hand-written note to your legislator thanking them for their time, providing any additional information you promised during the visit, and reminding them of the asks your shared.
Site Visit Follow-Up