Recent Articles

For the Children:    Honoring the Real Superheroes

Oklahoma-As we prepare for our upcoming banquet, it is my privilege to recognize the folks who the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) will honor the evening of August 10th at our Heroes Ball!  We announced the winners just this past weekend, but I would like to go into further details about why each one of these individuals and organizations are “heroes” for Oklahoma kids. Our first honorees, receiving the SONIC Commitment Award, are Pastor Craig Groeschel and his wife Amy Groeschel of Life.Church. Craig and Amy are being recognized for their work to encourage Oklahomans to become foster or adoptive parents. Largely because of their efforts and the strong message they sent to their congregation, Oklahoma met its goal of recruiting more than 1,000 foster families last year. Our next honorees will receive the Steven A. Novick Award for Dedication.  If you have not heard of him, Steven was the attorney who won a landmark lawsuit which uncovered significant shortcomings within Oklahoma’s child welfare system, ultimately leading to major reforms and the creation of OICA.  The recipients this year are the television stations KFOR, KTUL and KSWO, each one of which devoted significant air time to the AdoptOkKids program that helps children in foster care find adoptive families. Continue Reading →

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Youth Programs Can Lead to Future Careers


Oklahoma-I had the great pleasure last week of visiting a summer youth program at Bridgestone Intermediate School in western Oklahoma City.  This group of about thirty students in the 5th and 6th grade was a joy to meet with, and many of them were already expressing an interest in politics. They asked me to share my story with them: how I became a state legislator, a gubernatorial candidate and now the director of OICA. As I related that story, I realized that many of my lifelong passions developed when I was only slightly older than them. My interest in politics really started in earnest when I served as a page for Senator Ray Giles as a high school student.  From that experience, I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to a career path of helping shape policy and working in the best interest of my fellow Oklahomans. I had this experience thanks to a 4-H award which I won my junior year.  I had joined 4-H when I was the same age as the Bridgestone students I met last week, and I experienced many wonderful leadership development opportunities which not only took me outside the town limits of Rush Springs, but all across the United States. Continue Reading →

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For the Children:   Lessons to Live By

I had the pleasure of delivering two graduation speeches this year to high school students embarking on the next stage of their lives.  I remember as a graduate how anxious I was for that next stage.  I am confident students today feel the same, and I am equally certain our state elected officials share that attitude after finalizing this year’s legislative session.  In fact, the content of my speech could probably apply just as much to Oklahoma’s politicians as it does to its high school graduates. I used three quotes as the foundation for my remarks to recent grads.  The first, pulled from comic book fanfare, is the basis of what drives one character to keep fighting against tremendous odds and constant obstacles.  Ben Parker imparted upon his nephew that “with great power comes great responsibility” (a comic book update to the Biblical lesson “to whom much is given, much is required”).  Those words go to the core of what keeps Spider-man going even through the toughest of times.  He has a responsibility to use his powers to better the world.  With graduates, they now have the responsibility to be an active part of society as adults, pay their taxes, and go to the polls and vote. This effort will make their neighborhoods, their communities, their state and their nation better. Our legislators have the power of the vote at the capitol. Continue Reading →

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For the Children: Free Comic Book Day Helps to Boost Reading and Literacy


Oklahoma – I am taking a week off from discussing the Oklahoma Legislature and politics to share some important news: May 6 is Free Comic Book Day in the United States! As a collector of comics, I am excited about this day for obvious reasons. But as the CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, I am excited about the way in which it can be used to jump-start our children’s interest in reading, their imaginations, and ultimately their literacy levels. If you were not aware before, you are now: I collect comic books. When I was running for governor in 2014, my staff was actually afraid it might cost me votes. Continue Reading →

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For the Children: A Cost-Cutting Measure That Hurts Kids

With a $900 million budget shortfall dominating this year’s legislative session, many lawmakers are looking to balance the budget by cutting government spending. As advocates for children, our job at OICA is to shield Oklahoma’s youngest and most vulnerable residents from any “cost-cutting” measures that would adversely impact them and, in some cases, negatively change the trajectory of their entire lives. One of those measures is Senate Bill 81, which seeks to lower the grade level at which a student can be suspended from school. Currently, out-of-school suspension is only allowable at the 6th grade level and above. SB 81 would allow children as early as third grade (only 8 or 9 years old) to be suspended.  In addition, the bill would reduce the requirements for counseling programs available to these children, who are the ones who need it the most. Continue Reading →

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For the Children – Is Your Glass Half-Full?

I try to be a “glass half-full” kind of person, but there are times when parts of your world can wear you down.  We all experience this to some extent, but it is how you deal with these situations that determines the outcome and impact on your own life and those around you. Far too many children in Oklahoma experience negative circumstances which can change the course of their entire lives. The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy asked Dr. Jennifer Hays-Grudo serve as the keynote speaker on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) for our annual KIDS COUNT Conference.  Dr. Hays-Grudo discussed the results of studies across the United States with children 17 and under and the trauma associated with their childhood.  Not surprisingly, of the categories tested, Oklahoma ranked at the top with the highest percentage of children experiencing childhood trauma that followed them into adulthood. You can view slides from her presentation at for more details. We face a generational cycle of trauma which simply will not be fixed overnight.  Our 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book showed slight improvement from recently collected statistics, so we must not backtrack.  There is far more work needed to continue solutions within the Oklahoma State Capitol and the various agencies, as well as neighborhoods and communities. Continue Reading →

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Infants and Children Suffer Grief

Queen City, TX- My husband came into my office and said that his nephew had called wanting to know if he needed to make a flight reservation to Hawaii.  Our middle daughter has recently moved there, and my husband mentioned to his sister a few days ago, that perhaps we should all meet in Hawaii for a family reunion.  My husband also mentioned that his nephew wanted to become a private pilot, and I commented that I thought that would be wonderful.  I continued, “If he (the nephew) were to become a private pilot like you (my husband), we could all meet up somewhere fun, like Branson.”  He said, ” Oh no, not my sister, she won’t fly.”  I asked, “Why won’t she fly?” That was when my day changed. My husband informed me that his sister had had two sons, but that one had died two years ago, in a plane crash, not far from our home.  His words struck me deep in my heart.  I could not help it; I began to cry.  I cried all day.  I was so heartbroken for his sister. My husband was separated from his paternal family as an infant.  We, my husband and I, have been married for 29 years, and for 29 years, we have diligently searched for them.  My husband did not share his father’s last name.  Indeed, until recently, he did not even know it.  It was not until this past summer when our youngest daughter went back east to visit her grandmother (my husband’s mother), that she was able to extract secret information regarding my husband’s father.  Our daughter is a genealogist sleuth, and with just the slightest clue, she can discover all sorts of lost information.  With the few clues she pulled from her grandmother, she located my husband’s family within just a few hours. Over the years, my husband has always insisted that deep down inside he knew he had a sister.  It turns out he was right.  His sister, who lost her son two years ago, is slightly older than my husband and knew him as an infant.  She has actually been looking for my husband all of these years.  Although she has a different mother, she lived in the same household with my husband upon his birth.  As older siblings do, she assisted in his care until the parent’s relationship severed.  Although my husband was an infant at the time, and could not consciously remember his sister, he had bonded with her and longed for her love.  The sudden loss of his older sister’s love and companionship caused him, even as an infant, to grieve for her. Continue Reading →

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