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The need for child advocacy on local level.

The local arena is where all policy is implemented, regardless of where it is made.

Most child advocacy in recent years, however, has occurred on the federal and state levels, focusing on legislation and protecting the budgets of major children's programs, such as education, health and nutrition.

While the necessity for state and federal advocacy cannot be minimized, what happens at the local level is of equal significance. There are several major arguments for child advocacy occurring on the local level.

1. Implementation of state and federal laws must occur on the local level. Ultimately, how policy is implemented determines its benefit for children. State and federal laws are, at best, only general guidelines and often have no built-in mechanisms for monitoring and enforcement.

The impact of state and federal policy is most effectively evaluated in local communities; negotiations about implementation have the most immediate impact when they occur on the local level.

An example of why local advocacy must accompany state and federal advocacy can be seen in San Francisco's handling of status offenders. In 1976, after much state level advocacy, California passed a law saying that countries could no longer lock up status offenders.

How creatively this policy got enacted depended entirely on local factors.

In San Francisco, the law got implemented by taking the locks off the doors of the status offender units in the juvenile hall. The intent and research behind the state policy got ignored. Only when Coleman entered the picture did the city create neighborhood-based family counseling programs and small group homes throughout the city for status offender youth.

2. Programs for children are created at the local level.

Much of what government does that impacts the welfare of children is affected not y broad policy, but by local programming decisions. For instance, placing recreation workers in housing projects in San Francisco did not require more money, nor was it the result of any state or federal policy.

This, like many creative program ideas that benefit children, is a strictly local program issue.

3. A significant number of policies impacting children are made at the local level. This is becoming increasingly true with the trend to defer more policy-making to lower levels of government. Many local policy issues have been all but ignored so far by the child advocacy movement. These issues vary from state to state, but often include: afterschool latchkey programs, playgrounds and parks, teen recreation, housing policies, zoning, police, juvenile probation and juvenile court, libraries, homeless families and youth, interagency collaboration, and a range of social service and health programs not covered by state and federal funding. 4. Inner cities are the focal point for the crisis among children. Drug abuse, gang violence, school dropout, and homelessness are most extreme in the inner cities and solutions to these problems cannot come only from state capitals and Washington, D.C., but must be addressed at the city (loca) government level.

Margaret Brodkin is the Executive Director, Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth, 2601 Mission St., Suite 708, San Francisco, CA 94110; 415/641-4362. This article is excerpted from the October 1989 report, "Making Children a Priority of Our Local Communities: 15 Years of Child Advocacy in San Francisco."
COPYRIGHT 1991 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:excerpt from the report 'Making Children a Priority of Our Local Communities: 15 Years of Child Advocacy in San Francisco'
Author:Brodkin, Margaret
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 11, 1991
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