GFWC Juniors’ Special Program: Advocates for Children is designed to encourage all Woman’s, Junior Woman’s, Juniorette, and International Affiliate Clubs to make a difference in the life of a child by being an advocate. The Program was envisioned as a way for clubwomen to provide a voice for children and to teach and encourage parents and other caregivers to advocate for children at the grassroots level.
The definition of child advocacy is “support for children who are in a vulnerable position in society or in a vulnerable situation.”
Clubwomen can be an advocate by working to:
- Ensure that children are protected from harmful situations.
- Encourage healthy physical and emotional lifestyles.
- Impact policy to improve children’s lives.
During the 2020–2022 Administration, our aim is to honor our roots and be a voice for children. The Program includes a special focus in two areas:
- To advocate for art curriculums and outdoor activities at schools for all students, including those with disabilities, and to highlight the value of art and outdoor programs as therapy and enrichment for children with emotional, mental, and physical challenges.
- To advocate for education and training that helps parents and other caregivers be the best advocate possible for a child in emergency and other health situations.
Multiple studies demonstrate the correlation between participation in arts programs and academic achievement. Yet, as budgets are crunched in school districts, the arts are repeatedly cut from education curriculums. Likewise, outdoor school activities, another indicator of success and a key component of children’s health, is in critical decline. Currently, children spend roughly half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. Outdoor exercise, education, and experiences are essential for physical and emotional wellbeing, the hands-on opportunities that intensify learning and increase student engagement and enthusiasm, and for understanding the natural world and developing an appreciation for nature.
Children also depend on the advocacy of others, especially their parents and caregivers, to protect and promote their interests in an emergency or long-term health situation. First-rate children’s healthcare should be available to everyone and family voice and choice is essential in providing the best healthcare plan for each unique situation. Educate yourself and others about medical resources and organizations that will help you be the best advocate possible for children.
The Juniors’ Special Program: Advocates for Children also encourages advocacy and projects that will assist and protect children in crisis, including those experiencing:
- Child abuse
- Depression and suicide
- Foster or residential care • Homelessness
- Human trafficking
- Life-threating illness
Be inspired by this list of how GFWC clubs can use local resources and creativity to be the voice for children. Find further information about organizations named here under Resources.
- Advocate for art curriculums and outdoor activities for your local schools and/or state by reaching out to local city and state officials about the importance of these programs. Ask the PTA to partner with the club by encouraging parents to join the advocacy effort.
- Check if local schools qualify and have applied for funds under the Every Child Succeeds Act if art funding is cut or eliminated.
- Plan and sponsor a program celebrating children’s art in conjunction with a local library or activity center in March for Youth Art Month.
- Investigate virtual platforms for creating student art and provide an after-school workshop.
- Sponsor rock painting and other community art projects for youth organizations.
- Offer art scholarships for area youth to attend art schools or camps.
- Organize an art show and sale with proceeds benefiting a local art program.
- Hold a one-week summer art camp for budding visual or performance artists.
- Support an outdoor performance at a local park.
- Sponsor a library program featuring an author who focuses on art projects or outdoor activities for schoolage children.
- Partner with and/or provide volunteer support to community youth organizations that promote arts, outdoor activities, and/or other enrichment programs including civic engagement, such as Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Boy Scouts (BSA), Girl Scouts, FFA, and 4-H.
- Advocate for programs that directly benefit children at local and nearby state parks.
- Partner with a local school to build an outdoor classroom or school garden, using resources from Project Learning Tree such as School Site Investigation and Creating an Outdoor Classroom.
- Create a learning habitat for children at a local school or park using free, downloadable guides from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, including The Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide and The Schoolyard Habitat Curriculum Guide.
- See if your local school qualifies for the National Park Foundation’s Open Outdoors for Kids fieldtrip program to connect kids to national parks, the world’s largest outdoor classroom. The program subsidizes and delivers outdoor experiences for fourth graders nationwide.
- Help fourth-grade students secure their own Every Kid Outdoors pass through the Outdoor Alliance for Kids, which will provide them free access to national parks across the country. Consider sponsoring a family day at the nearest national park.
- Support local parks and recreation centers by volunteering or providing scholarships and/or supplies for summer camps and other programs.
- Sponsor a 5k run to benefit outdoor education programs in schools and/or communities.
- Learn about and promote Ecotherapy or Nature Therapy, which can help children with anxiety, depression, mental fatigue, eating disorders, feelings of isolation, and other emotional and mental ills.
- Volunteer with and/or support Equine therapy programs.
- Undertake projects that provide a sense of security for children in foster care, such as making or customizing duffle bags for carrying their clothes and/or creating overnight kits with hygiene and comfort items.
- And many more provided in Club Manual.