The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 10, 2013

Child advocacy institute seeking board members, funds

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Oklahoma is in the bottom five of virtually all categories of child care and advocacy.

For this reason, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is reaching out to get more people involved. Shay Sheppard-Aman, an Enid psychometrist and organization board member, wants northwest Oklahoma to be involved.

Sheppard-Aman is the only board member from northwest Oklahoma. Her goal is to find three board members and raise $100,000 in this part of the state.

“For the last two years, (the organization has) been trying to get people across the state involved,” Sheppard-Aman said. “We want people to become active, financially and personally.”

In the past, the organization primarily has been concerned with the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas, but now is reaching out across the state. Its goal is to be the voice of Oklahoma’s children. Sheppard-Aman has been on the board for two years and currently is secretary.

One of the board’s duties is to oversee policy changes for the Department of Human Services.

“We need people on the board. We need three new board members from northwest Oklahoma,” she said. “We want people to be aware and be personally involved.”

Board members are needed because funding has been dramatically cut by the state, and the need increases every year. There is a bigger effort now because of the cases of abuse, neglect and childhood obesity in the state.

The organization started in 1983 as a result of a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma because of the maltreatment of youth in state custody. OICA works to ensure children and youth in Oklahoma are protected by the policies it helps craft at the State Capitol, and in local communities, Sheppard-Aman said.

“It’s imperative for constituents to understand the need to work with their political figures, because that is a population that cannot speak up for themselves,” she said.

The organization also is looking for stories of success. Sheppard-Aman invites anyone with a story of struggle or success to contact the child advocacy institute through its website, oica.org, and share their story.

The board believes it is critical for every child in the state to have a nurturing family in a supportive community; quality health care; quality educational opportunities through their childhood; protection from all forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence; economic security and freedom from poverty; equal opportunities; and freedom from racial disparities.

Those interested in becoming involved with Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy may contact Sheppard-Aman or the organization through its website. Interested individuals also may follow the organization through social media or subscribe to “Kids Count,” a publication provided by OICA. It presents facts about child care and abuse in Oklahoma, and how the state ranks against other states.

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is a 501(c)(3) organization.