View From Washington

Family Involvement

By Brent Ewig, MHS
Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs, AMCHP    

Amidst all the special interests in our nation’s capital, keeping families at the center of policymaking is not easy. Here at AMCHP we’ve worked hard to institutionalize family involvement and family leadership in all aspects of our operations – including and especially in our advocacy work. While we have much room for improvement, I want to share some of the steps we’ve taken and progress we have made in recent years. 

First, our leadership has worked hard to recruit and retain two family representatives to serve on our Legislative and Health Care Finance Committee. This Committee is charged with setting AMCHP’s annual legislative agenda, recommending implementation strategies, and monitoring progress. Having two seats on the Committee for family representatives assures that their voice is heard in all aspects of our advocacy work.  

Second, we’ve recognized that no one can tell a family’s story better then the family members themselves. Therefore, we’ve worked to support and strengthen the voice of families in our annual advocacy program supporting increased appropriations for the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant. For the past two years we’ve sponsored a family specific advocacy training prior to the Hill Day held in conjunction with the AMCHP Annual Conference and have worked with our Family Scholars program to incorporate advocacy training and Hill visits into their experience. 

These trainings are designed to highlight the fact that Washington policymakers need to understand the challenges, obstacles, setbacks and triumphs that families – and particularly those with children and youth with special health care needs – face in navigating our complex health system. Hearing first hand the importance of Title V supported services can make all the difference to an elected leader in trying to decide which programs to support – especially in this era of deficit driven politics. Our training calls, therefore, focus on helping family advocates understand how powerful their personal stories are. Combined with an overview of the basics of the arcane Congressional appropriations process, we encourage families to exercise their basic rights to petition our government and help policymakers understand the vital role of Title V programs.  

We are so pleased that close to half of the visits made to Capitol Hill to advocate for Title V during our last two Annual Conferences were made by family representatives. The feedback we receive from these visits is a tremendous value and helps us target our efforts and cultivate potential Congressional champions for MCH programs. This feedback loop is essential to improving AMCHP’s advocacy efforts.

There are often many voices clamoring for attention in Washington, DC.  AMCHP looks forward to continuing our work in partnership with the families served by Title V programs to make sure their voice is heard.