Happy back-to-school week to the over 500,000 Iowa students and over 35,000 Iowa teachers headed back to the classroom—and to their families who are reestablishing school-year routines or staking out new ones.

In this issue we have information on a couple of upcoming events of interest, a Q&A with our colleague Sheila Hansen, who represents the Center at the state Capitol during session, and an action request for you to consider.

Regular readers here know we've spent a lot of time in recent months highlighting the importance of SNAP. Why? Because SNAP is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program and an important income supplement to help people get back on their feet after tough times. 

Right now we could use your help. September is gearing up to be a pivotal month for SNAP, which is part of the federal Farm Bill. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30. We invite you to join us in protecting food assistance for over 350,000 Iowans, 71 percent of whom are in families with children. 

What can I do? Join our campaign by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. It's crucial that Iowans in every part of the state understand how SNAP supports their friends, neighbors and family members. 

Why a LTE? Writing a letter to the editor is a great way to start important conversations in your community. And elected officials regularly monitor local media to track public interest in an issue. 

How do I get started? We've put together several templates, available by clicking below, to get you started. Also included: tips for writing and submitting your letter. If you'd like a hand, let us know. We'd be more than happy to help.  

Health care is a hot campaign issue again this year. Are you ready to be a health care voter in November? Know the questions to ask candidates and responses to listen for?

Put October 2 on your calendar now, and join us then for an informative town hall outlining two critically important but troubled parts of Iowa's health care landscape: Medicaid and the individual marketplace. We'll give a rundown of how we got where we are, the current situation and some potential paths forward. 

Health Care State of Play
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
6:30 to 8 p.m.
West Des Moines Community Schools Learning Resource Center
3550 Mills Civic Parkway

Stay tuned for registration information. All are welcome. 

Sheila is the Center's policy director. Prior to joining the organization in 2004, she was the executive director of the Iowa Head Start Association. Sheila wins our "longest commute" award: she and her family live in Fort Dodge. 

How did you get started with lobbying and advocacy?

Right out college I worked for WIC, a nutrition program for babies and young children, and I discovered there were a lot of families who were frustrated with the program’s processes and rules. This frustration often posed as a barrier to these families getting the support they needed. So, I started looking for ways to change the rules, essentially becoming an advocate in the process. I continued working with WIC families before switching to Head Start—and I guess the rest is history.

What has been surprising, rewarding and/or challenging about your role?

It’s been very rewarding to see hard work and effort make a difference in the lives of Iowans. For example, hearing stories about Iowans who became eligible for health care following our work around Medicaid expansion was memorable. That people underestimate the obstacles we face as child advocates is both surprising and challenging. Almost everyone claims to support kids, but in reality, priorities are made and we work extremely hard to give children’s issues the attention they deserve.

What policies or issue areas are you currently working on?

Child care is a big topic right now. Lately, we’ve been partnering with the Iowa Women’s Foundation to better understand the child care issues facing communities across the state. We’re listening to local Iowans, providing educational and advocacy resources, and identifying solutions tailored to each community. There’s also a lot going on with Early Childhood Iowa (ECI), a partnership of public and private stakeholders working to improve the access to child care, education and health care for Iowa’s youngest kids. I’m a member of the ECI Public/Private Partnership Committee, and our goal is to get more businesses involved with issues facing families and kids—child care access, health care, paid family leave, and so on. Not only do we want businesses to implement family-friendly practices in their organization; we also want them to advocate for these practices when the state legislature is in session.

Why is the Center’s involvement with ECI so important?

ECI is essentially the primary network for issues related to kids in Iowa. When it comes to child policy, both the state legislature and the governor look to ECI for recommendations and advice. This underscores our potential for influence, because ECI has the ability to shape the policy priorities in Iowa. I’d also mention that ECI poses a great opportunity to learn first-hand the issues facing Iowans throughout the state. As advocates we can lobby at the statehouse, pretending to know what Iowans need. Or, we can seek out these communities and work to identify issues and solutions based on stories and feedback. ECI provides this valuable opportunity, and it undoubtedly makes our work that much more meaningful.   

Isn’t there an ECI event coming up?

ECI is celebrating its 20th anniversary at this year’s Iowa Summit, scheduled for October 3, 2018. Located at the Sheraton West Des Moines, the event will bring together key stakeholders, including business leaders, state legislators, former governors—even a representative from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—to focus on issues related to Iowa’s youngest kids.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love traveling with family. Recently, we’ve been visiting local parks in Iowa—a nice change of pace from traveling long distances. I also enjoy gardening and reading, when I have time.

Here are the details on the Iowa Early Childhood Systems Summit Sheila mentioned above. It’s a prime event for folks around the state who work in early childhood as well as business, civic and faith leaders, law enforcement and policymakers with an interest in how supporting children in their earliest days contributes to Iowa’s long-term civic and economic health. 

The summit is focusing on two main areas:

  • the science of brain development—how nurturing, stable environments help children develop the cognitive and emotional skills they need for lifelong health, school and economic success

  • the link between child care and workforce development—how child care increases the availability of employees that are qualified, productive, reliable and committed to stay with the company

Click below to register for the day-long summit, as well as for ECI’s 20th anniversary celebration, which will take place that evening. 

Iowa Early Childhood Systems Summit
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sheraton West Des Moines
1800 50th Street


505 5th Avenue Suite 404
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
(515) 280-9027

Let's connect!

Our work is supported by individual Iowans who care about children and families—join us!

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