As a parent who has watched our daughter's self-esteem, confidence, joy and happiness soar with the critical SCL (Supported Community Living) services she receives, my husband and I have been feeling increasingly frightened as huge cuts to the Medicaid budget are being considered. So, when her case manager and agency staff invited us to advocate for her in specific ways, we signed on to do whatever we could. We made calls to federal and state senators and representatives, and had surprisingly positive experiences telling a bit of our story to staffers, who were kind and responsive.
The bigger leap for me, was deciding to participate in the IDaction Day at the Capitol, Advocating for Change in the Iowa General Assembly, on April 5th. I do not enjoy public speaking, and have no experience with meeting lawmakers, so went off to the Capitol feeling a swarm of butterflies and teary energy stirring around in my gut. Now, a couple of days later, I am SO glad I moved past my fears to hear my voice introducing our beautiful daughter to legislators who are in the midst of deliberations that will effect her quality of life.
The IDaction training session before seeking out legislators was very helpful and went a long way in helping to calm my fears about how to be part of the process. Getting to the Capitol and seeing Amy and Jodi was enormously encouraging as I decided to try to speak with legislators in our daughter's county, who may support big budget cuts. Beginning with gratitude for the Medicaid funding that makes SCL services possible and connecting the gratitude to specific successes like no hospitalizations, or group home, or sheltered workshop, but because of the funding, a first independent apartment with just a few SCL hours a week, competitive employment at her local HyVee with SE (Supported Employment) support only as needed, and our daughter's new mantra, "I'm happy mom, and I feel like a real adult," was the story that tumbled out, and was received by each legislator with kindness and compassion.
I have no illusions about the funding challenges ahead, and what that will mean to our families. I do have great hopefulness in the power of stories over time, to change hearts and make a difference for good in the world. I will choose this challenge again, and stand ready to pay forward the gift of mentoring to any who would like to join me.