Influencing public policy for positive change
Every child deserves to be healthy, joyful, and safe. Every young person needs to be growing and learning in a secure, nurturing home and community. In the United States today, millions aren’t.
- Almost one quarter of the nation’s children under age 18 live in poverty.
- Fewer than half of poor preschoolers have access to Head Start programs.
- Nearly 20 percent of children live in homes that at some point every year rate as food insecure.
No one knows these sorts of numbers better than the many Americans who work and volunteer for groups and programs that serve the nation’s most vulnerable. Their voices, unfortunately, rarely shape public policy. The late Karabelle Pizzigati spent her career striving to change that reality and give champions for children the advocacy skills and confidence they need to make a real and lasting impact.
Now the University of Maryland College Park, in its spirit of fearless leadership and as a proud Do Good campus, has established — in Karabelle’s honor — a unique program designed to expand the ranks of informed, skilled advocates dedicated to promoting the well-being of children, youth and families.
This landmark effort, launched through an endowment made possible by Karabelle’s family and friends, has already created a clinical professorship in advocacy for children, youth and families, and the inaugural Karabelle Pizzigati professor, the veteran public policy analyst and advocate Adele Robinson, is now planning out the initiative’s three prime components:
• A signature program for undergraduates in advocacy for children, youth and families, a collaborative initiative between the Schools of Public Health and Public Policy that will actively involve faculty across the university and national advocacy experts. Students who complete this program, whether they go on to work in nonprofits or government agencies, will have the policy background and practical know-how necessary to engage effectively in the public policy process that shapes our children’s future.
• An advocacy training institute for professionals working either directly with or on behalf of children, youth and families. This institute will offer virtual and in-person learning opportunities that will help these working professionals couple their knowledge of what kids and families need to thrive with the tools and skills essential to success in the public policy advocacy arena.
• An applied research development and dissemination agenda that will enable rigorous studies of effective advocacy at the local, state, and federal level and help develop model legislation and other policy vehicles — all grounded in research and evidence — for policymakers and advocates.
The planning for this initiative is actively involving academics and advocates from across the state and nation, and a broad array of stakeholders will remain deeply involved as the initiative evolves and grows. How far this effort goes will, in turn, depend on the support of institutional funders and the continuing generosity of those who remember Karabelle’s life-long commitment to America’s most vulnerable.