by Michelle Hughes
One thing I’ve learned from many years in child advocacy is that for every moment of discouragement, there are moments to celebrate right around the corner if you just hold tight. There were days in 2018 when I didn’t think I could pick my head up off the desk. But there were also wonderful points of light over this past year because of you, this amazing team of people at NC Child, and many strong voices for children across our state. Sure, there are a lot of things that keep me up at night, but as we wrap up this year, I want to celebrate the good we accomplished in 2018.
Thanks to the collaborative, persistent voices of child advocates across the state, the support of friends like you, and plain hard work, here are a few of the things we’ve achieved for North Carolina’s kids this year:
- Thanks to persistent advocacy, the NC General Assembly did not allow new cut-rate health plans that discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.
- Funding for the NC Suicide Lifeline was preserved. This was a heroic last-minute effort after my colleague Rob Thompson discovered an “error” in the state budget zeroing out funds. I am incredibly grateful that those life-saving funds were restored – particularly at a time when suicide rates are increasing among the very young.
- A local policy decision in October to end Corporal Punishment in Graham County means not one child in NC now has to fear being hit by a teacher or principal. Our Senior Fellow Tom Vitaglione has been working on this since the before some of our staff were born, and in 2019 he’ll be asking the state legislature for a formal statewide ban.
- In December Governor Cooper announced a new policy to protect pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace, effective in all the state agencies under his discretion. This will mean healthier babies and more economic stability for families working for the state’s largest employer. North Carolina is currently one of the few states with virtually no protections against pregnancy discrimination. The next step will be to encourage the directly-elected Council of State members and the Court System to adopt the protections described in the Executive Order.
- Twenty-five year data from the CDC show that fewer youth than ever are risking their health through smoking, alcohol, street drugs, or risky sexual behavior. A combination of public health policy and education mean that as a result, far fewer youth are dying in car crashes or becoming pregnant than twenty-five years ago.
Of course it’s not all good news, which is why NC Child has a very full agenda in front of us for 2019. Stay tuned for that next week. Today, in the spirit of gratitude and joy, I thank you sincerely for using your voice for North Carolina’s children. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones – and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together in 2019.