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Looking After the Little Ones.

States have majority and minority caucuses, of course, and plenty have caucuses working on women's, black or Latino issues. Some even have caucuses with a state-specific focus, like Illinois' White Sox Caucus, Louisiana's Acadiana Caucus or Pennsylvania's Karaoke Caucus.

Add to the list children's (or kids') caucuses, which several states are forming. These are bicameral, bipartisan groups of legislators and other stakeholders who work mainly to inform their colleagues about issues affecting children, though some also make policy recommendations. From the oldest, Hawaii's Keiki Caucus, formed in 1994, to the newest, formed recently in Maine, legislatures across the country are using these caucuses to educate their members and improve the lives of children.

Currently, eight states--Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin--have kids' caucuses.

In Colorado, the caucus is led by four co-chairs, one member from each party in each chamber, with all legislators invited to attend. The caucus makes four to five presentations on child welfare for lawmakers every session. The presentations often include agency staff, advocates, foster youth and other stakeholders.

Wisconsin's caucus, like Colorado's, is chaired by four legislators, two from each chamber and each party, and it invites all legislators to participate. In its second year, the caucus arranged a series of statewide listening sessions to bring area legislators, local child welfare providers and the community together to learn about best practices in preventing child abuse and neglect.

Other states have groups similar to kids' caucuses, including children's cabinets, commissions or councils, that bring together state legislators, executive branch officials, advocacy organizations and other stakeholders. Indiana, for example, has a Commission to Improve the Status of Children, which was established by legislation and includes members from all three branches of government. The commission releases an annual report on the status of children and recommendations for legislation.

Does your state have a children's caucus that we didn't cover? If so, we'd love to hear about it. Send the details to magazine@ncsl.org.

States With Active Kids' Caucuses

* Colorado's Children's Caucus presents four to five educational programs for lawmakers each session.

* Connecticut's Early Childhood Caucus meets weekly to discuss issues and pending legislation.

* Delaware's Legislative Kids Caucus presents an annual legislative platform.

* Hawaii's Keiki Caucus meets annually with nonprofits, educators and other stakeholders to develop a package of legislation to be introduced by caucus members.

* Maine's Early Childhood Caucus meets several times during session to hear from experts on child care and early childhood issues.

* New Hampshire's Legislative Caucus for Young Children proposes and monitors legislation, and gathers information from nonprofits and agencies serving children at an annual forum.

* Pennsylvania's Early Care and Education Caucus supports programs that promote health and educational development for at-risk children.

* Wisconsin's Legislative Children's Caucus offers programs on early childhood brain development and effective early learning.

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Title Annotation:TRENDS
Author:McCann, Meghan; Poppe, Julie
Publication:State Legislatures
Geographic Code:1U1ME
Date:Jan 1, 2018
Words:467
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