Idaho Voices for Children (Voices) began in November of 2004 to create a unified voice to advocate for state policies that promote the interests and well-being of children. Officially incorporated in 2005, Voices elevates children as a policy priority and advances a statewide children’s policy agenda. Voices is an affiliate of the Partnership for America’s Children and the state lead for the Campaign for Grade Level Reading.
For over 20 years, advocates have been working together to advance public policy for children in Idaho. Early efforts focused on child care and child welfare legislation, but the challenges were great in Idaho, a conservative state with strong libertarian roots.
In 1995, advocates incorporated into the Children’s Alliance of Idaho (a 501(c)4 organization) and the Children’s Alliance Foundation (a 501(c)3 nonprofit).
The twin organizations worked in tandem to educate and inform citizens and policy makers through conferences and meetings, and to influence legislation for children through advocacy and lobbying. The Children’s Alliance grew in organizational and individual membership and support, but continued to struggle for funding. Paid staff time was insufficient for the job at hand due to lack of funding.
In 2001, Stand for Children began supporting local grass roots organizing for children in Idaho, developing several chapters with some impressive wins for child care at the local level. A year after the organization came to the state, Children’s Alliance members agreed that the state would be better off with a single advocacy organization and added their members and financial resources to Idaho’s Stand for Children organization.
Over a 3-year period, Stand for Children grew in Idaho, expanding the network of citizens concerned about children’s issues, and affecting change for children at the local level. Stand for Children members in Idaho expected to evolve a statewide advocacy effort as well. However, the organization suffered a major setback when the national Stand office withdrew their support for Idaho program staff.
Despite this setback, child advocates in Idaho were still committed to building their strength as a voice for children, and began forming an advocacy group specifically designed to Idaho’s needs, Idaho Voices for Children.
Though the organizational structure and names may have changed over the years, continuity has been strong for this group, which includes many members who were involved in the early effort 20 years ago. Added to these experienced members are many new people with areas of expertise critical for our success.