Advocacy simply means speaking on behalf of oneself or others to get something done.
Is it that important to advocate with elected officials, our legislators, to prevent child abuse and neglect? Yes, it is vitally important in child abuse prevention! Our elected officials are the individuals that make decisions about legislation (laws), funding and policy. Additionally, people who are experts in their fields or have connections with elected decision makers can be important influencers on issues of importance to the children of Hampton Roads. By speaking with and working with local, state and federal elected officials, and influencers, we ensure that laws to prevent abuse and programs that support abuse prevention are adopted, implemented and maintained. Our Families Forward Virginia (Prevent Child Abuse Virginia) affiliation gives us direct access to the progress of our Virginia lawmakers and guidelines for legislative bills to support, monitor or oppose. Champions For Children: Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads visits legislators at the General Assembly in Richmond to support legislation to protect children from harm and abuse.
Champions For Children has actively worked and promoted primary abuse prevention as a much needed entity that needs to be addressed in our region and Commonwealth. Partnering with Families Forward VA, a budget amendment to establish a state primary preventing plan was presented and is now confirmed as an Amendment (House Amendment 354 #10h). It requires the Commonwealth to create a child abuse prevention plan in collaboration with stakeholders. Stay tuned as the Prevention Plan workgroup meets and works on a report for the Governor in 2021.
Child Abuse Prevention Plan: “The Commissioner shall work in partnership with Families Forward Virginia to establish a 5-year plan for the Commonwealth to prevent child abuse and neglect. In developing this plan, the Department shall collaborate with the Department for Behavioral Health & Developmental Services, Department of Health, Department of Education, Family and Children’s Trust and other relevant state agencies and stakeholders. This plan shall be focused on primary prevention, be trauma informed, include a public health framework on abuse prevention, promote positive youth development, and be asset and strength based. The plan shall reference and coordinate with any other state plans or programs that deal with issues related to child abuse prevention such as but not limited to teen pregnancy prevention, youth substance use, school dropout, domestic violence/family violence, and foster care prevention. The Commissioner shall convene a work group to assist with developing this plan. The work group shall include, but not limited to, the following stakeholders: Families Forward Virginia, VOICES for Virginia’s Children, the Virginia Poverty Law Center and local experts. The Commissioner shall report its work to the Governor and the Chairs of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees, and the Commission on Youth by July 1, 2021.”
Betty Wade Coyle is the Executive Director Emeritus of Champions for Children: Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads, an organization in which she served for over 25 years. She remains involved with Champions as a board member. She is the advocacy chairman for Champions and a member of the advocacy committee and trainer for Families Forward, the Virginia Prevent Child Abuse affiliate. Although now retired, Ms. Coyle continues to serve on numerous boards and committees such as the Hampton Roads and State Child Fatality Review Teams, Norfolk Social Services Advisory Board and Family Assessment and Planning Team (FAPT) teams, the Citizens Advisory Council of the Norfolk Juvenile Court, and is a past chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, and was a member of the Virginia Family and Children’s Trust (FACT) Board and the Virginia Commission on Family Violence Prevention.
Knowing the importance of early child development in building strong children, much of Betty Wade’s advocacy work is aimed at benefiting the very young. Although her work career was focused on preventing child abuse and neglect, Ms. Coyle is well aware that training and support of parents is a critical component of creating child well-being. She trains, mentors and supports others advocating for children in all sectors of the community.
Ms. Coyle received A.B. and M.A. degrees in sociology from the College of William and Mary and taught in the Sociology and Criminal Justice Department at Old Dominion University. She is an occasional guest columnist for The Virginian-Pilot.