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How To Be An Advocate

We need you.

When we support them in their earliest years, infants grow into healthy kids who are confident, empathetic, and ready for school and life—and our communities, workforce, and economy become stronger and more productive.

Make an Impact

Join the NCIT nationwide network of advocates working inside and outside state and local government to ensure babies and toddlers are on track for success in school and life by age three.

You have the ability to influence decision-makers and create the change you want to see for pregnant people, infants and toddlers.

NCIT can provide the tools necessary to effectively reach out and influence key decision-makers at the local, state, tribal and national levels to ensure equitable policies are passed and implemented to allow all babies and toddlers to thrive.

You get to decide how and why you advocate. Advocates work with us at all levels, and all are welcome! You can start by replying to a simple email alert in under 2 minutes. You can call your elected officials office and leave a message about policy you want to see passed. Or maybe you have a personal story you want to share in the media or through testimony. The ways to participate are endless! However you choose to participate we are excited you are here and we thank you.

Are you ready to join us? Learn more below and take action.

Advocacy is the application of pressure and influence on the people and institutions that have the power to give you what you want.

You can influence decision-makers and create change in your community. This site provides the tools necessary to effectively reach out and influence key decision-makers at the local, state, tribal and national levels to ensure policies and programs that help all babies and toddlers thrive are supported and implemented.

You can make an impact in multiple ways — just take a step to get started!
Here are some suggestions:

LEARN more about prenatal to three issues.

JOIN the NCIT Action Center network.

RECRUIT at least five friends to the National Collaborative for Infants & Toddlers network.

RESPOND right away to action alerts sent to you via email or text — why wait?

FORWARD email action alerts to your family and friends, asking them to take action, too.It takes all our voices together to make a difference!

INTRODUCE yourself to your lawmakers as an NCIT advocate.

CONTACT your legislator or other key stakeholders through emails, letters, tweeting or a meeting.

WRITE a letter to the editor of your local newspaper on a particular issue — it’s a powerful way to communicate with your legislators and community. (See more in the addendum.)

TESTIFY at a public hearing about the importance of a prenatal to three issue.

VOLUNTEER to be an advocacy spokesperson to raise awareness about prenatal to three policy issues and generate support. NCIT can connect you with local campaigns!

Below is just a general overview of the standard state legislative process. It can vary by state, so please check with your state and local organizations for more details about your state or visit your state legislature’s website to see if the information is available. Tribal governments have different processes based on their own systems and traditions. If you have questions about tribal policy reach out at [email protected] for help.

The legislative process begins when issues need to be addressed through legislation. These issues can be generated by constituents (like you!), special interest groups like the National Collaborative for Infants & Toddlers agencies, elected officials or the governor.

Advocates can impact the process throughout the legislative journey, starting with the idea for a bill.

Let’s walk through a state legislative session:

Introduction: A member of the legislature introduces a new piece of legislation in the form of a bill.

Reading: Once a bill is introduced, its title is read for its first reading in the chamber in which it’s introduced. Then it’s assigned to a committee. This is an essential step in the process, since which committee hears a bill can have a huge impact on whether the bill continues to move in the process.

Committee Consideration and Report: At this point, the bill may be voted out of committee favorably in its original form, favorably with amendments, with committee substitutes, or unfavorably. The bill may also be referred to another committee or a subcommittee. The committee process is a critical step in the life of a bill because the bill can be amended, or substitutes can be offered that could change the bill considerably. The committee can also halt the progress of the bill and “kill” it.

Second Reading: After passage out of committee and/or subcommittee, the bill is then brought to the floor of the chamber in which it was introduced, and a second reading is held. During this reading, members may debate, add amendments and/or vote to pass or not pass the bill.

Third Reading: The third reading allows for more debate and consideration of the bill before a vote is taken. Amendments can also be added. At the third reading, members take a final vote to decide on passage of the bill. Sometimes the third reading is held immediately after the second reading; at other times it is the next day or later.

Passage 1: If the bill passes the chamber in which it’s introduced, the bill is then sent to the other chamber for consideration and the process begins again. The other chamber holds the first reading of the bill the day after it receives the original bill. It’s then referred to committee in that chamber and the process starts over.

Passage 2: If the bill passes the second chamber in the same form it was introduced, it then is eligible for the governor’s signature. If it has been changed in any way (amendments or committee substitutes), the sponsoring house has a chance to concur with the changes. If the original chamber concurs, the bill is enrolled. If it does not concur, the two versions are sent to a conference committee to work out the differences.

Conference Committee: If the bill passed in the other chamber is a different version (has had amendments or a committee substitute), a conference committee is assembled from members of both chambers. This gives the members an opportunity to hammer out differences in the versions of the bill and adopt a Conference Committee report, the final wording of the legislation.

Conference Committee Report: Both chambers must vote on the final conference report. Usually there is not much debate at this stage since differences were ironed out in the committee.

Governor’s Signature: Bills that have passed the legislature then go to the governor for signature or veto. If the governor signs the bill, it becomes law and is enrolled. If the governor vetoes the bill, then the bill returns to the legislature for a veto override vote. In some cases, if the governor takes no action, the bill will automatically become law.

Enrollment: After it becomes law, the bill is printed in its final form and then sent to the secretary of state for inclusion in the Official Records and Printing.

It is a long process that can go very quickly, or in most cases pretty slowly. NCIT and its members can help you understand where in the process bills are at the local, state and federal level. Tribal governments have different processes based on their own systems and traditions. If you have questions about tribal policy reach out at [email protected] for help.

Visit the resources section to learn more about prenatal to 3 issues and policy solutions. Within this site, you’ll find NCIT and member organizations news releases and fact sheets and statistics that can be useful for advocacy outreach.

You’ll also find more information on key policy issues, opportunities to take action, and ways to grow as an advocate!

The resources outlined here are meant to get you started on your journey as a National Collaborative for Infant & Toddlers advocate. Your actions truly can change public policy and create a world where every baby, toddler and their families thrive.

So, start your journey today and let us know what additional resources you need to be successful. You can message us at [email protected]. We want to hear from you!

To learn about the state/community/district when contacting a legislator or writing a letter to the editor:

  • General search (Google, etc.)
  • Wikipedia
  • Your state website
  • Local city/county website

To learn about stakeholders and legislators:

  • General search (Google, etc.)
  • Campaign websites to learn more about where the legislator stands
  • Legislator lookup webpage:
  • National government website: and
  • State websites to learn about committee memberships, cities/towns represented, leadership status
  • News search for up-to-date information about the legislator’s activities

3 Reasons to Get to Know Your Lawmakers

  • Help your lawmaker get to know you and your community.
  • Establish yourself as a credible source for information and connections in the community.
  • Share vital stories of community members you want them to remember.

Sharing Your Story

Your story can have a significant impact! It helps bring an issue to life for your listener.

By sharing your story, you can:

  • Put a face on facts and figures.
  • Connect lawmakers to constituents and what’s happening in their district.
  • Provide the human-interest side of an issue.
  • Help gain media coverage of an issue.
  • Inspire new advocates to join the effort.

When sharing your story with a decision-maker, you need a clear objective and some details to illustrate your point. Consider using transitions such as “if … then” or “since …then” and be sure to finish with an “ask,” meaning what you want your lawmaker to do regarding the issue.

View a worksheet to help develop your personal story.

Remember, sharing your personal experience is compelling, demonstrates passion for an issue and is “sticky” — it helps people remember you!

Key stakeholders have the power, by virtue of who they are or what they do, to effect change.

You can work to convince them that they have a stake in your issue and the outcome. That is, they win if you win. They’re all legislators, but not all legislators are equally effective. Senior legislators, and those on committees that will be crucial for addressing prenatal to 3 issues, may be your top lawmakers with whom to focus on building relationships.

Writing an Email to Stakeholders/Legislators:

  • NCIT or your local or state partner’s action alerts make it simple for you to send an email to decision-makers who set policy and make laws.
  • When you receive an action alert, personalize the message with one or two sentences and send it.
  • If you have a personal story tied to the issue, share it in your email.
  • When legislators receive hundreds of personalized messages about a certain issue, they’re more likely to notice and take action.

Writing a Letter to Stakeholders/Legislators:

  • Be sure to let the decision-maker know where you live (city, state) and why you feel so strongly about prenatal to 3 issues.
  • Emphasize your commitment to making sure all pregnant people, infants and toddlers have what they need to thrive.
  • Encourage the decision-maker to respond and let you know their position.It’s best to send letters to members of Congress to the local district office rather than to Washington, D.C., where mail is processed for safety and delivery can be delayed.
  • Keep your NCIT or local organizational partner up to date on how your communication efforts are going.

Calling Stakeholders/ Legislators

Don’t hesitate to call your elected officials. Often legislation moves at a fast pace and in order to have an impact on its course, we must move quickly. One of the best ways to do this is with a well-timed phone call. It takes a couple minutes to call your lawmaker, and usually you’ll be asked to leave a message with their legislative aide or on their voice mail.

There are times when we’ll send email alerts asking you to call your lawmaker through our phone system. It’s super easy to use - follow these steps:

  • Click on the link in your email, enter your information and hit submit.
  • Our system will call you right back.
  • Then you’ll hear a brief recording from NCIT or member staff and be connected to your lawmaker’s office.
  • Talking points will appear for you on the action page.
  • If you need to talk to more than one lawmaker, just stay on the line and hit the star key after you finish your first message or conversation.

There may be other times when you want to call your lawmaker directly. Here are general tips when calling:

  • Make sure to identify yourself, mention where you live, and share that you are calling for NCIT.
  • Be brief in stating the purpose of your call, follow the talking points provided.
  • If the elected official isn’t available, make sure you leave a message.

Sample outline for talking points:

  • Hi, my name is [first and last name].
  • I live at [home street address].
  • I’m calling [lawmaker’s title and name] about x-issue.
  • Add 1-2 sentences about why this is important to you and/or the community.
  • I hope to count on their support.

Learn how your elected officials operate. Some don’t have offices or staff, so keep this in mind when reaching out to them. Also, some offices prefer in-person rather than online meetings.

  • Receptionists and staffers are your allies, too. Get to know their names and ask for their email addresses, so that you can thank them for their help.
  • Patience is a virtue. Persistence and follow-up are often required.
  • When meeting with your member of Congress, an in district meeting is not only fine — it’s often preferred.

This can also be true for state lawmakers.

  • If your lawmaker is in a leadership position, it will be challenging to get a meeting directly.
  • So you’ll likely meet with their staff — and that’s OK.
  • If you’ve met with an aide, feel free to ask if they would help you set up a future meeting directly with the lawmaker — you won’t insult them.

If your meeting is virtual, be sure to determine the best technology platform (Zoom, Microsoft Teams,
FaceTime, etc.) for you and the lawmaker’s office and identify who will set up the meeting link.

Check out a great training, tips and handouts for meeting with elected officials.

Framing Meetings:

  • Open the meeting by thanking the lawmaker (or their staff) for meeting with you.
  • Let them know who you are and that you’re an advocate for the National Collaborative for Infants & Toddlers
  • Then explain why you requested a meeting and what you hope to discuss.
  • Ask your member for their position on prenatal to 3 issues.
  • Make it personal — share your expertise and why their support matters to you.
  • Ask your member for their support on prenatal to 3 issues.
  • Offer yourself as a resource to them and their constituents.
  • Thank them for their time and ask for a photo opportunity.
  • After the meeting, send a note thanking them for their time.
  • Don’t forget to send your photo to your NCIT or local organization staff partner, so your efforts can be promoted in communications and social media.

Using the media to spread your message is a smart and effective way to build support for an issue from decision makers and from fellow residents. Below are some ideas to get started!

Op-Eds or Opinion Editorials

An op-ed, short for opinion editorial, is a written piece published in a local, regional, or national media outlet that expresses an opinion on a certain issue. Op-eds give legislators, journalists, and members of your community a chance to learn more about your cause, form their own opinions, and, ideally, take steps to get involved.

Before you get started on your own op-ed, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Check the submission guidelines. Most news outlets have strict guidelines on op-eds, including limits on word count (typically around 500) and specific directions on how to submit (via email or online). We recommend you check your paper’s requirements before you start writing. This information can typically be found on the “opinions” page of the media outlet’s website.

Write like you talk. Avoid jargon, fancy words, and slang. Your op-ed must be understandable to the general public, including people that may have no knowledge of the issue or your campaign.

Get to the point. Make your key points early and often, and back them up with facts and examples.

Offer a short, snappy headline. A good headline gives readers a preview of what your op-ed is about and grabs their attention.

Share a story. A personal story is a great way to humanize your issue. Whenever possible include a story in your op-ed.

Be prepared to be edited. Op-ed submissions are subject to revisions, editing, and fact-checking. Sources for factual statements should be listed at the bottom of your op-ed or linked to in the text to expedite review and placement processes.

Include your contact information. Be sure to include your name, title, organization (as needed), email, and phone number in case the editors want to contact you/the signer.

Letters to the Editors

Letters to the editor (LTE) are an effective, simple way to spread awareness about a public policy issue. It’s a short letter for publication about an issue of concern. Most LTE are written in response to a published story. You can write letters to LTEs of a local or national newspaper, online magazine or blog. Like op-eds, LTE can be centered on a personal story or be more factual and straightforward. It’s important to think about the readership of the outlet when determining your writing style. Also, keep in mind that your LTE can agree with or oppose the original piece you’re responding to, or could add to the article by offering a different or missed point of view.

As a volunteer, you have an important story to tell! Lawmakers read their local newspapers and can be influenced by stories from their constituents. The awareness you can bring to an issue by submitting an LTE is unique and valuable.

Link your letter to a published story. You can respond to any article that you feel relates to your cause as a hook to get the editor’s attention. Reach out to your NCIT or your local organization contact for help to identify a story to respond to for your letter.

Keep it short and concise, up to 250 words maximum. Most publications have limitations on how long LTE can be, usually the publications rules are included in the LTE section of the paper. Generally, you’ll be asked to share a few sentences telling your story and then why you want to see the issue you’re discussing to be resolved.

Include your contact information. Often, publications will call to verify your identity and confirm that you submitted the LTE. So be sure to include your name, email and phone number when you submit your letter.

Use a catchy title. Your title should offer a preview of what your letter is about in a way that attracts the attention of your audience.

Talk about the issue from your perspective. Your LTE should seek to answer these two questions: Why is this issue important to you? Why is it important to people in your community?

For additional support on submitting a letter to the editor on a topic, reach out to NCIT or your local organization directly. They can provide talking points or data to support your opinion on a public policy issue.

It’s important to note that media and technologies are interconnected. A good advocacy campaign plan will incorporate pieces from more than one type of media.

Engaging on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and others have changed the ways people communicate. These sites update millions of people on the latest news and what their friends, celebrities, and in some cases, strangers are doing

Connect with Elected Officials. In addition to connecting with fellow NCIT advocates, you can use these sites to connect with elected officials. See if your legislators are on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and “friend” them. You can find out about events they’re hosting and participate, learn about their priority issues and communicate your policy issue interests.

Add to ongoing conversation. You don’t necessarily need to start an online conversation about your issue to have impact. In fact, there may already be one that you can add to. Check to see if there are relevant hashtags and active conversations about the issue area.

YouTube and other video-sharing websites have also become mainstream in spreading information, gaining support through numerous views of video clips and creating the occasional viral sensation. Most social networking sites share video as well, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.

You can also stay informed, engage in the political process and comment on heart and stroke
health issues via Congress YouTube sites:

Personal video messages can be another effective way to communicate with lawmakers at all levels. Consider sharing a video message and sending a link to your lawmakers to view. Messages from the heart make a difference.

Blogs and microblogs are an outlet to express your opinions on many topics and create readership audience. Readers can respond, so blogs offer more of a conversation online.

Microblogging is a short form of communication and on many services are limited to no more than 150 characters. The most popular microblogging tool is Twitter.

You can also subscribe to health care policy blogs or the personal blogs of elected officials to learn about priorities and start a dialogue in these forums. Also, look for opportunities to comment on blogs on newspaper websites to deliver your message on topics relevant to AHA policy issues.

As media continues to evolve, these popular sites may change. So be sure to connect with NCIt and your local organizations who can be a resource for you.

As advocates, it’s important to influence lawmakers who are present on social media through a host of different communication channels to make a difference.

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