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connecting with the policy environment
Connecting with the Policy Environment

This Action Guide promotes a distinct strategy for pursuing funding, quite different from the strategies you typically hear about: It guides you away from seeking funds for very specific programs and toward utilizing emerging policy opportunities in your state to engage officials in understanding how child development and universal prevention might support their goals. In tandem with asset mapping, this approach is more likely to motivate officials to work with you to find opportunities to invest in such initiatives.

The sections in this prong are designed to help you understand the mechanics of how policy decisions in education, child and youth development, and mental health get enacted in legislation and then operationalized in budgets, agency regulations, and guidelines that have budgetary implications.

Policy concerns relevant to child development and prevention initiatives are likely to emerge in your state or local community. In general, you will want to search for and partner with those that focus on school and community environment, school climate, or other broad prevention initiatives rather than on those that target services for individual children – although you may be able to add more public health or structural approaches to these, too. As consultant Bradley J. Hull notes, “Every issue has its ‘sweet spots’ for each level of policymaking.”[1]

To be successful with this strategic prong, staying up-to-date on the ever-changing policy environment of education, health and mental health is crucial. It is particularly important to pay special attention to state and local policy changes and the impact of federal regulations.[2] Doing so will help you scope out what policy opportunities are available in your state or locality, and help you identify policy levers in the budget, legislative, and regulatory processes, in order to anticipate immediate and long-term next steps.

Use the templates in the Tools and Resources section to organize information and create a plan.

[1] Bradley J. Hull, Ph.D., personal communication to Olga Acosta Price, May 27, 2014.
[2] This Guide focuses primarily on state funding opportunities, with some consideration of local possibilities. For a Guide to federal funding opportunities for prevention and social-emotional learning activities, see the May 2014 publication of the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools and the Center on Education Policy, “A Guide to Federal Education Programs That Can Fund K-12 Universal Prevention and Social and Emotional Learning Activities,” http://www.healthinschools.org/

Guiding Questions
  • How will you and your Action Team access information on health and education policies?
    • What networking will you do?
    • Are there helpful staff people at the state or local levels who can provide it?
    • Who are your traditional and non-traditional partners that can help promote policy changes?
  • Who is knowledgeable about the mechanics of the State Budget or how would you find individuals that are?
  • What are some of the broad issues of concern to your elected officials (Governor, legislators, local/city officials)? (For example, school discipline policies, truancy or dropout rates, expansion of behavioral health services, or reducing bullying and school violence).
  • What are some of the funding streams for current programs in schools, human services organizations, community-based organizations, and health agencies?
Key Actions

This Section covers two topics (refer to the tabs at the top of the page):

  • Tips on some content issues that are useful to know about in order to be most effective at implementing practical strategies. These are broad issue areas that might be on your state’s policy and program development agenda or advancing at the local level, and with which universal school-connected child development initiatives could be allied if you are able to identify common goals and build relationships with other stakeholders.
  • What you need to do: “How-to” strategies that you can use to take advantage of opportunities and advance your child development and universal prevention initiative.
    • The different tabs provide information on how legislation is developed and progresses from an initial concept through implementation and suggest optimal times and ways to promote your approach. It is important to closely track which stage of the process any of the issues or bills that relate to your initiative are in and decide when and how to get involved.
  • A critical part of every strategy advanced here is building relationships with key decision-makers and their staff throughout the process. You can do this by:
    • Understanding the “big picture” and overall processes of state/local legislative bodies, budgets, and regulatory frameworks;
    • Being helpful to legislators and staff by giving them fact-based information on your topic that makes their work easier;
    • Inviting legislators, executive branch officials, and staff to events that showcase the initiatives you want them to support and, with their permission, documenting their support via newsletters or websites;
    • Exercising thoughtfulness and courtesy in your discussions with officials, legislators and staff, i.e., listen to what they are telling you; recognize their constraints if such exist; if you find out that what they have told you is incorrect, be careful how you proceed so you don’t burn bridges; be gracious if you lose.


Updated June 2015

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